Mount St. Mary's rolls, 80-63

Beating R. Morris earns berth in Northeast semis

February 28, 1999|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- In its 80-63 win over Robert Morris yesterday in the Northeast Conference tournament quarterfinals, the Mount St. Mary's men's basketball team put itself on the hook at Wagner's Spiro Center on Staten Island.

Led by Gregory Harris, a point guard who seems to save his best for the Colonials (15-12), the previously underachieving Mountaineers (13-14) hit 65 percent of their shots on the way to a 17-point halftime lead and cruised into the semifinals.

Tonight at 7, they will face St. Francis, N.Y., which needed a late run to win, 65-58, over last year's NEC tournament champion, Fairleigh Dickinson.

Harris had 19 points and nine assists and Melvin Whitaker 16 points and six blocked shots for the Mount, which eliminated the most formidable rival of St. Francis and of UMBC. The Retrievers will play Central Connecticut today in a 5 p.m. game.

Earlier this week, Mount St. Mary's coach Jim Phelan had voiced his concern over the unpredictability of his team, which had been picked to win the conference, but finished sixth.

"It's kind of amazing that we come in after three losses because we couldn't hit the broad side of a barn," Phelan said. "Suddenly, they started to go in and, suddenly, people coming off the bench were making significant contributions. which was not happening the last three games."

But if there's a team the Mountaineers have played well this season, it is Robert Morris, which beat St. Francis twice and UMBC once, but lost its two regular-season games against the Mount. Harris averaged 20.5 points and six assists in the two previous wins over Robert Morris.

Yesterday, despite 27 points and eight rebounds from Robert Morris guard Gene Nabors, Mount St. Mary's dominated the last 28 minutes of the game. Harris scored 16 of his points in the first half.

The Mount led 49-32 at halftime and was never seriously threatened in the second half, leading by more than 20 points on several occasions.

On defense, Whitaker made a difference, forcing Robert Morris players into traveling violations and bad shots that led to 35 percent shooting for the game. On offense, Whitaker's teammates gave him a lift, with their 13 three-pointers opening space for him inside.

"It makes it easy all around," Whitaker said. "If you have guys hitting shots from near half court, what more can you ask for? It makes the game a whole lot easier."

MOUNT ST. MARY'S -- Balgac 4-6 1-2 11, Hayden 3-6 0-0 7, Whitaker 6-9 3-3 16, Harris 7-9 1-2 19, Herbert 4-8 0-0 9, Bethel 1-5 2-2 5, Lloyd 2-3 0-0 6, Moore 0-1 0-0 0, Marvray 0-1 0-0 0, Wilson 3-8 0-0 7, Grace 0-0 0-0 0, Kessler 0-0 0-0 0, Springer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-56 7-9 80.

ROBERT MORRIS -- Welsch 2-7 7-8 11, Jones 1-7 0-1 2, Smith 1-2 4-6 6, Nabors 9-19 4-4 27, Covert 0-5 2-2 2, Phelan 0-0 0-0 0, Alcorn 0-0 0-0 0, Washington 0-1 0-0 0, Jackson 0-2 0-0 0, Hopkins 0-0 0-0 0, Shirley 3-6 3-3 9, Pettyjohn 3-5 0-0 6. Totals 19-54 20-24 63.

Halftime--Mount St. Mary's 49-32. 3-point goals--Mount St. Mary's 13-27 (Harris 4-5, Balgac 2-3, Lloyd 2-3, Hayden 1-2, Whiatker 1-2, Herbert 1-2, Wilson 1-4, Bethel 1-5, Marvray 0-1), Robert Morris 5-17 (Nabors 5-12, Jackson 0-1, Welsch 0-2, Covert 0-2). Fouled out--None. Rebounds--Mount St. Mary's 30 (Hayden 6), Robert Morris 36 (Nabors 8). Assists--Mount St. Mary's 19 (Harris 9), Robert Morris 10 (Welsch 4). Total fouls--Mount St. Mary's 18, Robert Morris 18. A--1,487.

Pub Date: 2/28/99

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