Mount St. Mary's joins crowd, beats Rider for Phelan's 699th win

January 24, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

EMMITSBURG -- The students were back, and Knott Arena was alive with electricity.

And the Mount St. Mary's basketball team joined in the atmosphere last night, fighting off Northeast Conference co-leader Rider, 62-55, in an intense battle before 3,250 fans, the fifth-largest crowd in Knott's history.

Senior guard Kevin Booth came front and center for the Mountaineers with nine of the team's final 12 points, helping to secure coach Jim Phelan's 699th lifetime victory.

It was the biggest victory of the past three seasons for Mount St. Mary's (6-8, 5-2), whose program had fallen on hard times with consecutive 8-19 and 6-22 records.

"The guys got all pumped up with the students back," said Mount freshman guard Chris McGuthrie, who had 15 points and seven assists. "The crowd kept us on an emotional high. I know I was very excited."

Mount St. Mary's played like it from the beginning with man-to-man defense against the NEC's top scorer, Rider guard Darrick Suber.

Although he scored 18 of his team's 22 points in one stretch to get the Broncs back to two in the second half, Suber was kept under wraps early by Booth and Jeff Balistrere, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Chad Stull.

But at the end it was Booth who converted the big plays, causing a Rider turnover at one end, then making a three-pointer at the other.

Booth, who averaged seven points in the team's first seven games, packed nine of his 14 points into the final 3 1/2 minutes. "I didn't get a lot of shots, but when they came to me, I stuck them," Booth said. "This is a big, big win. They [Rider] made a run, but we made one right back."

Rider (7-7, 5-2) had won six of seven games after a 1-5 start and boasted Suber with a 23.9 scoring average, 10th best in the nation.

Suber finished with 28 points, but missed 12 of 23 shots and made only one of six three-point attempts.

"Obviously, you can only hold him down for so long," Phelan said of Suber. "Once he gets on a tear, he can shoot you right out. We kept a fresh guy on him, and he wasn't going to get anything easy. He made his run, but we bounced back pretty well."

The victory moves Mount St. Mary's into NEC title contention and sets up a week in which Phelan can win his 700th game. The Mount is tied for second with Rider in the league and visits pace-setting Wagner (5-1 in the NEC) on Thursday.

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