Mount routs St. Francis, awaits Monmouth 1st-place NEC showdown looms after 85-56 victory


EMMITSBURG -- One down. The big one to go.

Mount St. Mary's avenged one of its two Northeast Conference defeats last night, dominating St. Francis (N.Y.), 85-56, and now can set its sights on the league lead.

"It's not the last game, but if we win Wednesday, I don't know how we could lose the conference," said NEC scoring leader Chris McGuthrie, who topped the Mountaineers with 25 points.

"We'd have to give the [regular-season] championship away. It's in our hands now."

Monmouth, which defeated Robert Morris last night, visits Knott Arena Wednesday for a battle of 11-2 league leaders. The Hawks handed Mount St. Mary's -- 15-6 overall with a nine-game winning streak -- its last defeat Jan. 17.

St. Francis (8-13, 2-11) was the only other NEC squad to master the Mount, holding Jim Phelan's team to 27 percent shooting in a 60-56 upset Jan. 13.

But no repeat was in the offing. Mount St. Mary's in general and McGuthrie in particular came out raining three-pointers on the Terriers, who never seriously challenged after the first eight minutes.

The Mountaineers hit nine of their first 10 from beyond the arc with McGuthrie accounting for six of them despite a sore hip that continues to limit his one-on-one game.

"He's been on that kind of a tear ever since he hurt himself," said Phelan. "Maybe he twisted himself straight."

McGuthrie had 21 points by halftime and the rest of the game was pretty much a formality, although St. Francis refused to fold and stayed within hailing distance on the strength of its defense until the fading minutes.

The Mountaineers finished with 15 three-pointers, tying the school record, and shot better from long range (10 of 18) than from inside the line (3-for-10) in the first half.

Riley Inge was his usual resourceful self with 17 points, nine assists, five rebounds and two steals and freshman Tony Hayden played one of his better games offensively and scored 15 points.

Foul trouble and game control enabled Phelan to get some court time for bench players such as John Kelly, "who gave us a little bit of a lift when Gerben [Van Dorpe] got in foul trouble."

Phelan has 752 victories now and has seen it all in 42 seasons at the Mount. But even he admits the next game "shapes up as a big one."

"We were talking before this game about how Monmouth has the best six players in the league . . . as a group. You always worry when you do that that you're looking past somebody."

It certainly wasn't St. Francis. The Mountaineers sharpshooters took care of that concern very quickly.

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