Mount passes word with 85-66 win Fairleigh Dickinson, NEC get message on readiness for conference tournament

February 27, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

EMMITSBURG -- The game was almost a formality, but Mount St. Mary's -- already the top seed for the Northeast Conference tournament -- had plenty to play for last night at Knott Arena.

"We had to make a statement to the league that we're not letting up," Mountaineers guard Silas Cheung said after his team completed its regular season with an 85-66 domination of Fairleigh Dickinson.

"We wanted to let everybody know that the standings don't make any difference."

The easy win was the 14th in a row by Mount St. Mary's (20-6, 16-2), clinching the school's first 20-win season in Division I and setting a record for regular-season conference victories by an NEC member.

The Mountaineers also have won 15 consecutive games at home and 21 of the past 22.

Mount St. Mary's is idle until Friday night, when it will open NEC tournament play here against the winner of the Long Island-St. Francis (N.Y.) game.

Fairleigh Dickinson (7-19, 6-12) dropped its fifth consecutive game and 10th of its past 12. The Knights must play a first-round tournament game tomorrow at home against Robert Morris.

The Mountaineers had their customary quick start, rolling ahead 8-1, then 16-7 on two three-pointers by freshman Tony Hayden, and they never were in serious danger.

"Most times, other teams are struggling to keep up with us," said coach Jim Phelan. "We've had a lot of hot shooting starts."

Fairleigh Dickinson battled back within 36-30 late in the first half, chiefly on the inside play of 6-foot-6 Rahshon Turner, who had 16 points and six rebounds before the break.

But Chris McGuthrie ended the half by making a fall-away three-pointer, and Hayden launched the second half with three quick steals while fronting Turner.

"In the first half, Turner would miss shots, but keep getting his rebounds," said Cheung. "Coach made an adjustment designed not to let him have the ball, and it worked."

With 11:29 left, Mount St. Mary's had blown ahead by 62-41 against a team it struggled to beat in New Jersey on a last-second Hayden three-pointer, 76-73.

Despite the relatively easy night, Phelan was not happy with a stretch during which his guards missed five of six free throws.

"They just have to keep me mad at them," he said. "Going in, we kind of felt we were going to be able to outshoot them and that's how we played. Until we missed and missed at the end."

It was a night of offensive balance for the Mountaineers, who often receive 65 to 70 percent of their scoring from the backcourt.

McGuthrie (22 points) led, as usual, but forwards Hayden and Jeff Balistrere had 13 and 12 points, respectively, and combined for seven assists and six steals.

Cheung had 14 points and Riley Inge 13.

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