Mount scores early, often, ousts FDU

73-68 win avenges losses, earns spot in semifinals

Northeast men

March 04, 2000|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

TRENTON, N.J. -- It's normally impolite not to credit the opposition when it beats you. But Jim Phelan knew in his heart that his Mount St. Mary's team had lost to Fairleigh Dickinson because of its rotten first-half play in both games during the regular season.

If the Mount could play decently -- instead of falling behind 29-9 or 21-2 -- it would win.

Sure enough, the Mountaineers (10-19) offered a strong first-half effort last night and received a 73-68 win in return, despite a late FDU charge in the first round of the Northeast Conference tournament.

"The difference between this game and the two earlier games was the intensity with which we started the game," Phelan said. "We led it the whole way as a result."

To earn a semifinal match with Robert Morris, the Mount shot 52 percent, committed four turnovers and allowed 40 percent shooting in the first half. Gregory Harris led the Mount with 24 points, followed by Terrence Wilson with 14 and Aaron Herbert with 12.

The Mountaineers also moved one step closer to a repeat of last season, when they entered the tournament as a lower seed (No. 6) and won the tournament, which was the other goal along with saving face against the Knights.

"At the beginning of the year, we set the goal of going to the NCAA tournament," Harris said. "We know that we can only get there by winning the tournament, so the guys are going to leave everything on the floor and see what happens."

Defensively, the big chore was stopping FDU center Chris Ekwe, who averaged 22.5 points and 12 rebounds in the two wins against the Mount but was held to 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Phelan was pleased with the product of more effective techniques of denying the ball from Ekwe, as well as constant hounding from Michael Cook, Konata Springer and Angel Rivera.

"He still hurt us, but we did a much better job on him," Phelan said. "We fronted the ball better and pressured the passer more."

"I really couldn't move -- I was double teamed, so it was very hard our our wings to get the ball to me," Ekwe said. "I couldn't get out because we had a very bad shooting night."

After a 13-0 run produced a 19-16 lead, FDU coach Tom Green said: "I thought that we would take off after that. The fact that they were able to put out the fire is a testament to their tournament toughness."

Instead, the Mount answered with a 12-2 run over the final 8: 49 and took a 34-27 halftime lead. The Mount led by as many as 17 (62-45 with 5: 45 left) before FDU rallied, closing to 71-68 with less than a minute to go.

"We put two halves together, though we tried to give it away," Phelan said. "It got wild and woolly at the end."

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