EMMITSBURG – For the better part of Saturday evening’s clash with Central Connecticut State, an announced crowd of 2,384 sat relatively mum in the bleachers of Knott Arena, not offering much buzz to the airless pace dominated by two zone defenses.
These 17 games for the Mount have been fickle, filled with streaky shooting, sub-par defense that, not long ago, ranked in the bottom five of Division I college basketball and plenty of growing pains on a roster that holsters 12 freshmen. The Mount flat-lined the opening 25 minutes of its fourth conference tilt and trailed by one before unleashing a barrage of 3-pointers and displaying the potential Coach Jamion Christian has talked about since summer.
Seven quick points by electric 5-foot-5 point guard Junior Robinson got the crowd in tune and a corner 3-ball by Greg Alexander kept things chugging full-steam ahead as Mount St. Mary’s stormed past CCSU, 78-51, outscoring the guests 44-16 in the final 14:24 in which it drilled 10 triples during the dominant stretch.
Overall, the Mount went 16-for-33 from deep, the third-most 3s in a single game in program history.
“We’re still trying to find what the best of this team looks like. I thought we got a pretty good glimpse of that there for about 10 minutes left in the second half, how good this team can be,” Christian said. “That’s a good Central Connecticut State team … but I’m really enthused about our team. I’m enthused about the leadership we have, how it’s growing throughout the season.”
— Mount Athletics (@MountAthletics) January 7, 2018
After dropping double-digit affairs on the road to Wagner (76-57) and LIU Brooklyn (71-57), the Mount (8-9 overall, 2-2 Northeast Conference) return home for two much-needed wins, putting them into a three-way tie for fourth with Fairleigh Dickinson and St. Francis Brooklyn.
Robinson, who had four points in the first half and struggled to get into the flow of a methodical pace, erupted for 23 in the second half to finish with 27. He also added four assists and three steals, while making 5 of 9 triples, charging a young Mount team still acclimating to Christian’s Mayhem style of up-tempo, 3-point-shooting brand of basketball.
Freshman Jonah Antonio (18 points, five rebounds) splashed six 3s, three of which that came over a 1:56 span in the deciding stretch. His fourth deep ball came off a slick feed from 6-8 senior forward Chris Wray (four points, nine rebounds, six assists, two assists and two steals) in the corner to make it 54-40; the fifth came 15 seconds later when Wray snatched the CCSU ensuing inbounds pass and slipped it over to the freshman on the wing, which made it 57-40; and the sixth and final 3 was a jaw-dropper, seven-feet from beyond the arc to swell the lead to 62-43.
Alexander provided 15 points off the bench, canning 3 of 6 attempts from behind the arc and freshman point guard Donald Carey added seven points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals.
Things were knotted at 27-27 at the break and Central Connecticut’s Mustafa Jones had 11 of his 15 points in the first half.
Mount St. Mary’s held CCSU to 37.5 percent from the floor overall (21-for-56), including 15.8 percent from 3-point territory (3-for-19). Coming into Saturday, the Blue Devils ranked second in the league in 3-point percentage at 36.4 percent.
Additionally, the Mount forced 14 turnovers and registered 18 points off CCSU miscues, a product of the slowly developing 1-2-2 press Christian utilizing.
“That’s what it needs to look like,” Christian said of his press. “I’m really enthused with our young guys, how they continue to improve, how their mindsets have continued to get better. I love this team. I’ve said that from day one.”