By Kevin Sweeney
The saying “a tale of two halves” is often overused, but for the 2016-17 Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball team, it truly fits.
With tonight’s 77-70 win over Bryant, “The Mount” is now 11-1 in its last 12 games after starting the season 1-11, continuing the best start to NEC play in school history. The win, combined with other results around the league, gives the Mountaineers a 2 game lead in the NEC with 7 games to play.
The first half was very much a back-and-forth affair. Sophomore star Nisre Zouzoua exploded from downtown in the early going, drawing 3 triples in the first 3 minutes to give Bryant a 9-6 lead. But “The Mount” responded with authority, using a 12-0 run to take a 9 point lead. That run was quickly answered by the Bulldogs, using a 13-2 run capped by a 3-point play by Sabastian Townes to reclaim the lead with 5:09 to go in the half. That lead was maintained by the Bulldogs for the rest of the half, and Bryant carried a 38-37 lead into halftime.
The Mountaineers came out of the half with huge amounts of energy, and that started at the top with head coach Jamion Christian. The 44 year-old former VCU assistant who brought “Mount Mayhem” to Emittsburg exuded energy, sprinting down from the coaching box to the baseline after each made basket, encouraging the Mountaineers to press. That energy rubbed off on his entire team, as Mount St. Mary’s came out firing to start the half. An early 9-0 run by the Mountaineers quickly turned the halftime deficit into a lead, one they would never relinquish.
While they would never lose the lead, the Mountaineers weren’t always in control. Bryant kept fighting back, drawing within three on multiple occasions. However, whenever the Mountaineers needed a play to be made, Elijah Long (21 points) or Junior Robinson (15 points) delivered. 17 of Mount St. Mary’s final 19 points in the game were scored by one of those two players, including buckets each time the deficit got cut to three.
“The Mount” shot 60% from the field in the game, with Long’s 21 points, Miles Wilson’s 19 points, and Robinson’s 15 points leading the way. Chris Wray added 9 points and 11 rebounds for the Mountaineers.
Bryant falls to 5-6 in NEC play with tonight’s defeat. Zouzoua led the way with a game-high 25 points, while freshman guard Adam Grant posted 15 points for the Bulldogs.