Mount uses threes, 'D' to subdue R. Morris Phelan becomes second to coach 1,200 in 70-58 win

January 20, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

EMMITSBURG -- Mount St. Mary's has been weakened by ankle injuries to two key players, depleting its bench strength and inside defense.

But the Mountaineers compensated with other resources last night to repulse Robert Morris, 70-58, in a Northeast Conference game at Knott Arena.

Superior three-point shooting, 24 Robert Morris turnovers and an edge at the foul line carried Mount St. Mary's (7-8, 3-3) as Jim Phelan became only the second to coach 1,200 collegiate games.

"Our defense is not good enough to force all those turnovers," Phelan said. "They've got to cooperate to do that. They make a lot of passes, so you're going to turn the ball over."

Despite the Colonials' difficulty hanging on to the ball, it was anybody's game until Mount guards Greg Harris and Eric Bethel drilled some clutch threes and Bethel (game-high 21 points) sewed up the win from the foul line.

"We knew we had to be more aggressive attacking the basket," said Harris, who had 17 points, five assists and five rebounds. "Teams have been going to the free-throw line a lot more than us."

A nifty reverse on a baseline drive by Harris put away Robert Morris (7-9, 3-3) by giving the Mount a 64-56 lead.

"This was a real important one for us," Harris said. "We didn't want to go to Fairleigh-Dickinson [the league leader] too far behind."

The Colonials committed 16 first-half turnovers, but stayed in the game with tenacity on the backboards and solid defense.

"They work hard and play in your face all the time," Phelan said. "We knew it was going to be an ugly game and it was."

Robert Morris controlled its giveaway habits early in the second half and forged ahead by as many as five points (41-36). Mount St. Mary's was still a point behind with nine minutes left when Harris hit a three-pointer.

Bethel followed with another three off a screen for a 54-49 advantage and the Colonials never got closer than four again, partly because they had trouble getting off shots down the stretch.

"Our zone helped us match up with their three-point shooters," Phelan said.

Niall Phelan (no relation to the Mount coach) scored 18 points, 12 in the first half, for Robert Morris and Jim Phelan took Harris off the defensive assignment.

"He was doing a lot of running around, so Coach didn't want to wear me out," Harris said.

Keith Jones also had 18 points for Robert Morris, which exploited the absence inside of Mount forward Newton Gayle, who is expected to miss several more weeks because of his ankle problem.

Pub Date: 1/20/98

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