Courtesy of Moravian Athletic Communications
BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The second seeded Moravian College men's basketball team needed overtime to defeat third seed Drew University, 96-91, in a Landmark Conference Semifinal Wednesday evening in Johnston Hall as the Greyhounds advanced to the Landmark Conference Championship game for the second straight season.
The Hounds improve to 19-7 overall with their fifth straight home win, and the squad ties the school record with its 19th for the fourth time in 81 seasons including the second consecutive winter. Moravian will now play in the conference title game for just the third time in school history when the Greyhounds head to Juniata College on Saturday, February 24 for a chance to earn the Landmark Conference's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
"I thought our guys did a great job of just competing, and staying in the moment," stated Head Coach Justin Potts, who won his 49th game in just his third season leading his alma mater. "I thought our depth really helped us again. I think Jimmy is as good as any player in the conference and he showed that in overtime when he made some big shots and kind of put on his back a little bit. As we talked in the locker room, it was a character win. We stayed with it, we kept grinding and finding ways. We talk about our core values all the time. They competed. They appreciated the opportunity they had. They were pretty passionate, and I thought sacrificed all night. When we do that, we find ways to win."
The Hounds had four players in double figures Wednesday against the Rangers led by junior guard Jimmy Murray, who netted 24 points to go with three steals, two blocked shots and two rebounds. Murray connected on a trio of three-pointers and his second of the game in the first half broke the school record of 160 set by Ryan Miller '08. Sophomore forward C.J. Barnes tossed in 20 points with seven rebounds, and he was 4-for-4 at the foul line in the 13 seconds to seal the win. Junior guard Nicholas Casazza added 18 points, five rebounds and a pair of steals while junior forward Oneil Holder had 12 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocked shots and two steals.
Senior forward Khalil Rhett contributed six points, four rebounds and a pair of assists while sophomore guard Mike Martino had six points, three boards, two assists and two steals. Junior guard Will Brazukas dished out five assists to go with three points while senior guard Matt Cardonne and sophomore guard Elijah Davis each had three rebounds and two points. Freshman guard Shon Wilson also had two points while sophomore forward Addis Ralph added a point and a rebound.
The Greyhounds connected on 34-of-71 field goal attempts in the game, 10-of-25 three-pointers and 18-of-28 free throw attempts, and the squad's 10 three-pointers gave the Blue and Grey a school record 301 for the season. Moravian has also set school marks for most steals with 300, most assists with 435 and most blocked shots with 103. The Hounds pressure defense forced the Rangers into 23 turnovers in the game.
Rhett opened the scoring for the Greyhounds, and Barnes had the Hounds ahead 11-9 with first of four three-pointers in the game at the 15:03 mark. Drew answered with eight straight points for a 17-11 lead. Barnes would knot the score for the third time with another three-pointer and Murray connected from beyond the arc for a 22-19 edge with 8:21 left in the first half for Moravian.
The Blue and Grey slowly pulled away with the advantage reaching double digits, 37-26, on two free throws by Casazza with 3:10 to go in the opening half. The Rangers scored four points in the final minute to cut the Moravian edge to 41-34 after 20 minutes of action.
Drew scored first after the intermission but a three-pointer by Barnes and a jumper from Martino after a turnover has the Greyhounds leading 48-38 with 17:20 remaining. Holder connected on a three-point play as Moravian led 55-47 before the Rangers closed within two points, 55-53, with 10:32 on the clock.
Drew eventually knotted the score at 57-57 before a lay-up from Rhett and a three-pointer by Murray has the Hounds back up by five points, and Moravian led 71-64 after a three-pointer from Casazza with 4:30 left in regulation. The Blue and Grey still led by six points, 80-74, after a lay-up by Murray with 41 ticks on the clock but a lay-up and a three-pointer cut the lead to one with 23 seconds remaining. Casazza would hit one of two free throws before the Rangers hit a jumper with 4.3 seconds left to knot the score for the fifth time and force overtime.
Moravian scored the first five points in overtime with a free throw by Ralph pushing the lead to 86-81 with 3:32 left in the extra session. Murray had the lead at six points, 88-82, with a jumper at the two-minute mark before the Rangers closed within a point. Murray hit another jumper and two free throws to give the Hounds a 92-89 lead with 25 seconds left before Barnes iced the contest with his four free throws in the final 13 seconds.
The Greyhounds head to Juniata on Saturday, February 24 for the Landmark Conference Championship game with tip-off set for 2:00 p.m. in Huntingdon.