Mount St. Mary’s defense has been one of the best in the Northeast Conference over the last few weeks, and the Mountaineers were at it again Monday against St. Francis Brooklyn.
The Terriers made things a little easier for the Mount, however.
The Mount held an opponent to its lowest output in 16 years and cruised to a 59-39 victory at Knott Arena, and St. Francis Brooklyn helped the home team with a woeful performance from 3-point range.
The Mountaineers (8-11, 4-2 NEC) won their third in a row and fourth in five games behind a stifling defense, which held the Terriers to 35.4% shooting. St. Francis Brooklyn finished 3-for-27 (11.1%) from behind the arc, and missed 24 of its first 25 attempts until the final minutes.
“That was one of the best defensive efforts that we’ve had since I’ve been the coach here,” said MSM second-year front man Dan Engelstad. “I’m really proud of the effort set forth today. I thought our guys, from top to bottom, really brought it. And defense was the key tonight.”
Sophomore guard Vado Morse led the way with 19 points and hit four 3-pointers, with sophomore forward Nana Opoku going for 17 points and 10 rebounds and a second career double-double. Damian Chong Qui, another sophomore guard, scored 16 and pulled down seven boards.
Junior guard Brandon Leftwich had eight rebounds, and Chong Qui handed out five assists.
Mount St. Mary’s held its opponent to fewer than 40 points for the first time since beating Wagner 57-38 on Feb. 28, 2004.
The Mount missed its first five field goals of the second half, and St. Francis tried to climb back into it after trailing by 17 points at the break. Chong Qui halted any momentum with a steal of guard Chauncey Hawkins, streaked the other way and found Opoku coming down the lane for a thunderous one-handed dunk that riled up the home crowd.
“I saw Dame look at me as he was pushing the [fastbreak], he looked off the defender and dropped it off to me,” said Opoku, who traild the play. “I knew, like, I’ve got to do something with the ball and finish it.”
The highlight-reel slam came from a defensive effort, which pleased Engelstad — MSM scored 14 points off 10 Terriers turnovers.
The Mount’s field goal percentage defense is tops in the conference at 37.4.
Mount St. Mary’s led 36-19 at halftime behind 16 first-half points from Morse, and a 5-for-8 effort from behind the 3-point line. Morse had three of those treys, and Chong Qui sank the other two.
Meanwhile, St. Francis Brooklyn missed 14 of its 15 3-point attempts in the half. Hawkins, the Terriers’ leading scorer coming into Monday’s game at 14.8 points per game, had two in the first half. He went 0-for-10 from the floor and finished with four points.
Rob Higgins led St. Francis Brooklyn with 13 points, and Unique McLean grabbed 10 rebounds.
Morse started hot with a pair of 3-pointers, the second of which came from the far corner that put the Mount ahead 10-4 with four minutes gone by. Chong Qui canned a deep 3 from the top of the arc with 11:30 remaining in the half, and MSM led 16-8.
Morse scored 11 of the Mount’s first 13 points to set an offensive tone, but defense carried the night.