College Basketball

Bench play lifts Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball to 74-60 win over Morgan State

EMMITSBURG — The Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball team has relied on its starting five for much of the season. Its bench might be emerging at the right time.

Three starters scored in double digits, but the host Mountaineers’ 74-60 victory over Morgan State Saturday afternoon before an announced 1,116 at Knott Arena might not have been possible without contributions from a pair of reserves.


Freshman shooting guard Jaylin Gibson scored 13 points — one shy of his career high — in 15 minutes, while sophomore point guard Dakota Laffew racked up nine points, tied a career best with seven rebounds and set a career high with six assists in a career-best 31 minutes to help Mount St. Mary’s (4-8) end a three-game losing skid.

“It was very important,” the 6-foot-5, 185-pound Laffew said of his performance and Gibson’s in the team’s first win since edging Howard, 72-70, on Nov. 30. “I know we needed a spark, a spark coming off the bench. Since I was the first one off the bench, I know I had to come in and keep the flow going.”


With a game-high eight assists from junior point guard Jalen Benjamin — who also scored a game-best 17 points and added three rebounds — Mount St. Mary’s assisted on 18 of its 27 baskets. That drew coach Dan Engelstad’s attention.

“I’m proud of the 18 assists,” he said. “When the ball is moving and we’re sharing the ball and we’re getting out in transition, we are a really good basketball team.”

Benjamin, who scored 14 points in the second half, said he can sense a different flow when Laffew and Gibson are in the backcourt with him.

“It helps a lot,” he said. “It takes some pressure off of me. [Laffew] can pass the ball, he can score. Us three, we can do it all. That’s something this backcourt has needed, and we just need to keep going.”

The 6-3, 190-pound Gibson had not scored a point in four of his previous five games, shooting a combined 2-for-8, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range. Against the Bears (4-7), he connected on four of five shots, including three of four from behind the 3-point line.

“It felt real good to see some shots go in,” he said. “Just seeing everybody play hard, that made me feel like I had to come in and do something on the offensive end. We all played together.”

Normally, senior point guard Deandre Thomas (7.3 points per game) would be the first player off the bench. But with him still in concussion protocol after getting injured in an 88-77 loss at Santa Clara on Dec. 7, Laffew and Gibson picked the right time to fill that void.

“It’s amazing,” Benjamin said. “One through 10 on this team, everybody can get out there and do the exact same thing. It’s the energy those guys bring. We need it all the time because that will help us a lot.”


Senior small forward Mezie Offurum compiled 14 points, six rebounds and two steals, and senior power forward Nana Opoku registered 11 points, six rebounds and five blocks. But Engelstad said the Mountaineers need Laffew and Gibson to continue to be productive off the bench.

“I don’t think we’ve gotten the bench production that we expected, to be honest with you,” he said. “So it was big to get it tonight, and we need to get that going forward because it’s a big part of our basketball team. They’re talented, and they can bring a different energy. It was good to see them fly around and make some plays tonight.”

The game’s scariest moment occurred with less than a second left in the first half when Gibson dribbled up the court and crashed into Morgan State coach Kevin Broadus along the right sideline. Broadus laid on the floor behind the scorer’s table and was tended to by medical personnel for a few minutes before returning to the bench.

At the beginning of the second half, Broadus sat on the bench, and assistant coach Chretien Lukusa took charge along the sideline and in the huddle. But Broadus took over his duties later in the game.

“Truthfully, I just remember hitting my head on the back of the bleachers. That’s all,” he said. “I just remember someone ran into me, and I hit the bleachers. I’m still dizzy. The light and the noise bother me right now. But I’ll get over this in the next 24 hours hopefully.”

Broadus seemed just as troubled by the Bears’ shooting woes. Although senior power forward Lagio Grantsaan compiled 13 points, three steals and two rebounds, the offense shot just 16.7% (3-for-18) from 3-point range and scored only four points over a 6:49 span during which the Mountaineers scored 19.


“We’re not shooting the ball well,” Broadus said. “We’ve just got to get back in the gym and correct that and get better. We’re not scoring. But we’ll correct it. I firmly believe that.”


Wednesday, 7 p.m.


Tuesday, 5 p.m.