BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The Moravian College men's basketball team was 12-for-22 behind the three-point line in the opening half as they opened a 61-48 lead on rival Muhlenberg College, and the Greyhounds went on to hit a total of 16 three-pointers and earn a 107-98 victory over the Mules in Johnston Hall Tuesday evening as the squads ended their 2015-16 seasons.
The Hounds finish the year at 11-14 under the direction of first-year head coach Justin Potts '01, and the squad won four of its final five games of the season. Potts was an assistant coach at Moravian the last time the Blue and Grey hit the century mark in regulation with a 104-96 victory over No. 1 Wilkes University on February 3, 2001. The 107 points Tuesday evening also mark the most Moravian has ever scored in a home game, passing the old record of 106 versus Dickinson College set back in the 1959-60 season. The program record for points in a game is 117.
"We played really well down the stretch, and shot the more consistently than we have all year," commented Potts. "I tried to get the guys to understand about staying in the process and not worrying about the results, and I think collectively we did a better job of that down the stretch. I think the biggest thing is that our young guys grew up a little bit, and the older guys got more comfortable. I think in the last five games or so we had a better understanding of what could make us successful."
Four Greyhounds hit double figures against the Mules with freshman guard Jimmy Murray netting a career-high 30 points with six three-pointers to go along with three rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. Junior forward Brandon McGuire had his ninth double-double of the season and the 18th of his career for the Hounds with 26 points and 13 rebounds to finish his third season at Moravian with career totals of 847 points and 485 rebounds, and McGuire added three assists, three blocked shots and two steals in the victory.
"I think Brandon has been as good as anyone in the conference from the beginning of the year, start to finish," noted Potts. He's consistent and you know what you are getting just about every night. When Oneil and Jimmy got things going, and Matt at the end of the year along with Sean and our point guard play did some good things, it made it a little easier for Brandon and he was still putting up numbers. He's got a chance that if he keeps working in the offseason like the other guys in the program then he could have a great senior year for us."
Sophomore guard Matt Cardonne finished with 17 points including five three-pointers to go with two assists and two steals while freshman forward Oneil Holder added 12 points, five rebounds and two assists. Junior guard Sean Hanna had eight points, six assists, four steals and three boards for Moravian while sophomore guard Khalil Rhett and freshman guard Jake McGee each had five points with McGee grabbing three rebounds. Junior guard Isaiah Jennings had four assists and three points while freshman guard Will Brazukas had five assists and three steals.
"I think it was a pretty good team effort," Potts said. "I think our bench in a game when you are putting that many possessions up the depth of our bench helped us. We shared the ball extremely well with 17 assists in the first half which I think shows what our system can be when the guys execute it well."
After giving up the first points of the game, Murray hit a three-pointer on the Greyhounds' first possession. The Mules would retake the lead, and with the game tied at 8-8, McGuire drilled a three-pointer to give the Blue and Grey the lead for good and to start an 11-1 run as Moravian pushed the lead to 10 points, 19-9, just over five minutes into action.
The Hounds advantage would reach 12 points, 31-19, on a free throw from Holder at the 11:31 mark before the Mules scored 10 straight points to cut the deficit to 31-30 two and a half minutes later. McGuire hit a lay-up to end the run by Muhlenberg but the Mules cut the score back to one again at 35-34. Murray answered this time with a three-pointer as the Greyhounds scored 26 points in the final 6:23 of the first half to head to the locker room with a 61-48 lead.
Moravian's advantage reached 18 points, 70-52, on a three-pointer from Cardonne 2:19 into the second half before Muhlenberg slowly chipped away at the lead. The Mules would close within four points twice, the second time at 88-84, with 4:17 remaining. Murray hit a lay-up and McGuire followed with a three-pointer and a tradition three-point play as the lead went back to 12 points, 96-84, with 2:30 on the clock. Muhlenberg would get within five points before Murray and Holder each connected on two free throws in the final 41 seconds to seal the victory.
Moravian finished the game with 24 assists on 33 made field goals, and the pressing, up-tempo style of play at that Coach Potts has brought to the program forced the Mules into 21 turnovers in the game including 13 in the first half.
"I think for the guys this gives us some good momentum heading into the off season," Potts stated. "You like to try and win the last game. I think the biggest thing for this team was that the stayed with things, and we made a decision as a group with five games to go that we wanted to finish over .500 in those games. After we won the first three, we wanted to get greedy and try to get the last two. We didn't get Juniata on Saturday but to beat the rival is good. I thought Muhlenberg coach Scott McClary did a good job with his kids. They played hard, and they had a pretty good game plan to try and execute against our press.
"The best thing for our guys at the end of the year is they understood what makes you successful, and if they take that into the offseason then we've laid a great foundation for the future of the program that we can build on going forward," finished Potts.