Mount St. Mary's made a magical run through the Northeast Conference men's basketball tournament last March, advancing to the championship game as a No. 5 seed before falling to LIU Brooklyn.
The Mountaineers have fired a few salvos of a similar variety thus far, tagging St. Francis Brooklyn and Wagner with their first league losses of the season and winning three of their past five games.
"I think we're playing pretty well," coach Jamion Christian said Tuesday morning. "I think we're still looking for a level of consistency. Basically, we're a year-and-a-half into how I think a program should look. So I'm happy with where we are, but obviously not satisfied because I think we can play a lot better and a lot more consistent.
"But this is a great stand for us. We have two games on the road. We have yet this season to win two [consecutive] games on the road. So that's going to be our main focus trying to get these two road wins against two teams that really are dangerous because of the way they can score the ball, especially from the outside. So we're just going to try to maintain our focus here. We have a chance to make a really big push here in the NEC if we can get these two wins on the road."
Mount St. Mary's (6-11 overall and 2-2 in the conference) had a chance to vault into a first-place tie atop the league but could not protect a six-point lead at halftime en route to a 77-69 loss to Robert Morris (9-10, 4-0) on Saturday. The missed opportunity may come back to haunt the team, but Christian said his view is more long term.
"I think the message you want to send is that you'll be the best team at the end of the year," he said. "We're able to take that loss and a lot of other losses and look at ourselves in the mirror and wonder what we could've done differently. Overall, Robert Morris has been one of the top teams in our league over the past eight or nine years. The Mount has honestly been up and down a bit. So we're looking at that game as saying, 'Hey, we're really close to being one of those top teams four team annually.' We've got a lot of work to do, but we've got enough talent on the roster that if we put our minds to the amount of work we have to do, we can accomplish our goals."
The Mountaineers can move closer to the top of the NEC by defeating St. Francis, a team that is just 3-14 overall and 1-3 in the conference. But Christian pointed out that the Red Flash had a nine-point advantage over Robert Morris with four minutes left in the second half before losing, 73-68, on Jan. 16.