Mount finally wins an opener

December 04, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

EMMITSBURG -- The offense was spotty, the three-point shooting inaccurate and the game a helter-skelter mess that often resembled a free-for-all.

But after losing every previous season opener since joining Division I six years ago, Mount St. Mary's coach Jim Phelan was not complaining after his team routed Central Connecticut, 76-63, in the Mount Tip-off Tournament last night at Knott Arena.

The Mountaineers meet a tough assignment in the championship game tonight against East Carolina, a 78-51 winner over Columbia.

"Overall, we've got to be reasonably happy with the way things went," Phelan said. "I was pleased with the effort of our first group and fortunately, we got a lot of stuff off our defense early.

"As for the game, everybody is doing that, playing racehorse basketball. It's in each other's face and denying everything. I guess UMass and UConn have made it stylish."

Mount St. Mary's trailed only once (5-4) before reeling off a 17-5 run by capitalizing on the Blue Devils' ball-handling and shooting miseries.

Fifteen first-half turnovers and 28.6 percent shooting doomed the Blue Devils, who fell behind by as many as 26 points midway through the second half.

The Mounts didn't exactly rip the nets, hitting only four of 22 from three-point territory with Phil Galvin going 2-for-12.

"We played very hard in the beginning of both halves," said Chris McGuthrie, who led Mount St. Mary's with 16 points and tied his career high with nine assists. "But then we had letdowns. We've got to go hard the whole game.

"Our offense didn't play real well. The key was all the points we generated off the defense."

Michael Watson, back in the starting lineup after an effective season as the sixth man, tied his career best with 14 rebounds and pitched in 12 points in the Mounts' first season opener at home since 1986.

In the opener, defending Colonial Athletic Association champion East Carolina had no trouble with a Columbia team that was stripped of its entire starting five via graduation.

The Pirates (1-1) unleashed a 15-0 run starting at the 13:45 mark of the first half after leading 11-9 and had things their way thereafter.

Tim Basham, a freshman forward who prepped at St. John's Prospect Hall in Frederick, scored five points during the streak.

East Carolina became the first team to make the NCAA tournament with a losing record (14-16) since Montana State in 1987. It won the CAA tournament after going 4-10 in the league during the regular season, then lost in the first round of the NCAA regional to eventual champion North Carolina, 85-65.

Coach Eddie Payne has four returning starters and one of the nation's top recruiting classes.

"I think when you've got physically better people and you just keep the pressure on without gambling, they'll give it to you," said Payne. "We never gave them an opening."

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