SMITHFIELD, R.I. (Jan. 11, 2020) - Mount St. Mary's men's basketball pulled off a tremendous road victory that keeps them in the hunt for a top spot in the Northeast Conference (NEC) standings. Trailing by as much as 13 in the first half, the Mount stormed back, shooting 55 percent in the second half to defeat Bryant, 67-65, at the Chace Center Saturday.
The Mount (6-11, 2-2 NEC) was led by Jalen Gibbs with 16 points, 14 of which came in the second half. Forwards Malik Jefferson and Nana Opoku had strong showings to post 15 points each. Jefferson came within one rebound of a double-double. The team led in rebounds 35-33 and recorded a season-high seven blocks, led by Opoku with three.
Bryant (9-7, 1-2 NEC) stormed out of the gate with a 7-0 run, forcing a Mount timeout before three minutes had been played. Vado Morse got the Mountaineers on the board with a triple seconds later, but the team had to constantly try and catch up. Five-plus minutes of scoring droughts hindered the Mount's efforts. The Bulldogs were able to extend the lead to 22-9 after the first 10 minutes. Guards struggled, shooting 3-for-17 from the floor, but the duo of Opoku and Jefferson kept hope alive by going 7-for-12. Opoku led with nine points and the break. Defense helped for a time, but Bryant rattled off nine points in the final two minutes to take a 34-24 advantage into halftime.
With the score 37-26 in favor of Bryant a minute into the second half, Mount made their move. The trio of Gibbs, Opoku and Jefferson led the charge on offense, finding lanes inside to score in the paint. They chipped away at the Bulldog lead and strong defensive help from Morse and Damian Chong Qui also provided a spark. The result was a 14-0 run over five minutes that transformed an 11 point deficit into a three point lead.
Mount kept the advantage until the 11:40 mark, when a Bulldog layup gave them the lead back. Opoku got it back with a layup 20 seconds later, ensuing a cat-and-mouse exchange where Mount would score and Bryant would respond. A triple from Bryant's Adam Grant put them back on top with 6:48 left, but Chong Qui responded with a three on the next possession. From this point, Mount did not relinquish the lead.
However, Bryant held on, staying within one or two possessions in the final minutes. A Jefferson layup gave the Mount it's largest lead of six with 3:42 to go. Bryant came back with a trey from Ikenna Ndugba to pull within three. The Mountaineers used free throws to stay in front, leading up to a climatic close.
Up five with 20 seconds to go, it looked like money in the bank for the Mount. But Grant - who led all scorers with 17 points - buried a trey with six seconds left. Ndugba forced a turnover on Morse, giving Bryant a golden opportunity. Grant got a contested shot off in the corner, but the ball rattled out as the horn sounded.
The Mount returns home next Saturday (Jan. 18) to face Central Connecticut.