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Mountaineers take over 1st in Northeast 73-63 win over Monmouth pushes Mount into lead


EMMITSBURG -- The Mountaineers reached the summit last night before 2,895 howling fans at Knott Arena.

Armed with the revenge motive and an early three-point barrage, Mount St. Mary's repulsed Monmouth, 73-63, and took over undisputed possession of first place in the Northeast Conference.

It was the 10th straight victory for Mount St. Mary's (16-6, 12-2), atoning for an 82-77 loss at Monmouth Jan. 17.

"This wasn't easy, but we didn't expect it to be easy," said Mountaineers coach Jim Phelan. "They really hung tough, but I'm pleased with the way we protected the lead."

Monmouth pulled even only once (34-34) after the Mountaineers drilled in four three-pointers in the first four minutes and rolled to a 15-3 advantage.

But a turnaround jumper in the lane by Riley Inge regained the lead for Mount St. Mary's and Silas Cheung knocked home a key three-pointer just before the buzzer for a five-point halftime advantage.

Phelan's chief worry at the half was that Monmouth (14-8, 11-3) had more offensive rebounds (nine) than his team had overall (eight).

At the break, the Mount coach made some adjustments to his inside defense, shut down top scorer Corey Albano (one field goal all night) and Mount St. Mary's outrebounded the Hawks the rest of the way.

"Actually, we defensed them pretty well down low," said Phelan.

Foul trouble forced all-everything Riley Inge into the big forward spot for much of the second half and his adept play inside was crucial.

"We tried to some easy ones in there and open things up outside again," said Inge, who had 23 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. "We did go to the line a lot more this time."

Mount St. Mary's was only 2-for-3 from the foul line at Monmouth while the Hawks went 17-for-28. Last night, both teams made 17 free throws.

Chris McGuthrie had 29 points to head the scoring as the Mount posted its first 10-game winning streak in nine seasons.

Monmouth coach Wayne Szoke said his team "was outhustled. I'm disappointed in our performance. They showed more discipline."

All-NEC guard John Giraldo, who topped the Hawks with 15 points, said Mount St. Mary's "did a good job filling passing lanes and we struggled on offense in the second half.

"They seemed to know what we were going to do and we still tried to force it."

The victory puts Mount St. Mary's in command for the top seed and resultant home-games- only position in the NEC tournament.

But with a road trip to Western Pennsylvania on the horizon and a tough home game against contender Marist remaining, nobody is raising any pennants.

"This was an important win, but we move on," said Inge. "We still haven't clinched anything."

"All we have to do now is keep winning to become the first-place team," said Phelan. "We have to lose to let them back in it. That's what this means."

The Mountaineers visit Robert Morris Saturday, then St. Francis (Pa.) on Monday before returning home for their final two league games.

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