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College Sports

Men's Basketball: Mount St. Mary's gets its marching orders

EMMITSBURG — Mount St. Mary's basketball coach Jamion Christian said he created a document with his players called "Embrace the Good," where they wrote down positive things on one side and negative things on the other in correlation with their performance of play.

The goal was simple — fill up the front of the document with more positives than negatives after each game.

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The Mount went 1-11 through the first month and a half of play, suffering eight straight losses during that time. Then they won eight straight games through January and capped the season as the Northeast Conference victors with a 71-61 victory over Saint Francis (Pa.) last week in the tournament championship game.

Now, the Mountaineers are going dancing.

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Cheers erupted inside Knott Auditorium on the Mount's campus when it was announced the Mountaineers would face New Orleans on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio. It's the first game of the tourney, set for 6:40 p.m. And the winner gets a matchup with Villanova, the tournament's overall top seed, on Thursday in Buffalo.

"We were able to improve and that kind of [led] into the tremendous season that we had," Christian said. "We started winning games and attacking the schedule. We have a great group of guys that work hard and deserve that opportunity to play."

This is the Mount's fifth trip to the NCAA tournament and the team's second under Christian. The conference champions earned an automatic bid to the tournament after winning the NEC tournament title.

The early-season struggles came against major conference foes such as West Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa State, and Arkansas. But the Mount regrouped, and heads into the NCAA tourney at 19-15.

"To sum it up, [the season's been] a roller coaster," junior guard Greg Alexander said. "How it started out was discouraging at times because we started out not-so-great. But for me personally, playing all these top-tier teams made me feel good once we got to conference play and I knew we would be ready because I don't think these teams have seen the type of competition we've seen to start the season. I think the way we responded and went into conference play, I think everybody felt the same way I did, just ready for anybody."

Sophomore guard Elijah Long, who earned first-team all-Northeast Conference honors and was named the NEC tournament MVP, is the Mount's leading scorer at 15.4 points per game. Junior guard Junior Robinson, a second-team all NEC pick, is second with 14.1 points per game.

Westminster native Ryan Gomes is experiencing his first NCAA tournament bid with the Mount. Gomes, a 6-foot-10 freshman center, attended Westminster for two years prior to transferring to Friends School in Baltimore.

"From where I came from, I never really thought I was going to play Division I basketball and to go to the NCAA tournament is a big deal for me, it's really exciting," Gomes said. "I was just kind of speechless, to think that we're here today doing what we do. Through the regular season and the tournament, it's just a flow of emotions."

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New Orleans (20-11) defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for the Southland Conference title on Saturday and garnered its first NCAA tournament bid since 1996.

The Mount's last trip to Dayton, back in 2014, resulted in a 71-64 loss to Albany. Mount senior Will Miller hit a career-high seven 3-pointers in the loss.

"We're excited to play New Orleans," Christian said. "I looked at the profiles of all those possible teams and I thought our resume was pretty good. We have a chance to go prove that now, we got a great team in New Orleans who won their conference tournament and I think finished third or fourth in their league. ... They're playing really well as of late so we've got to really be locked in and put all of our energy towards them and try to do what we didn't do that time in Dayton."




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