EMMITSBURG, Md. (WDVM) – Mount St. Mary’s fell to St. Francis Brooklyn Thursday night 64-55.
“A disappointing outcome tonight,” said Mount head coach Dan Engelstad. “We played hard, but to close out a game, we have to be stronger with the basketball, and we have to do better at getting matched up in transition.”
Despite being down two starters, with Jalen Benjamin and Malik Jefferson both out with injuries, Mount was tied with the Terriers 29-29 at halftime.
In the second half, Mount held a 38-37 lead with 13:26 left, and would then go on a 10-to-2 run over the next four minutes, building their largest lead of the game 48-39.
Dakota Leffew knocked down a three pointer with 6:23 remaining that put the Mountaineers up 51-43, but from there, Mount would allow St. Francis to go on a 21-to-4 run to close out the game.
Mezie Offurum scored 15 of his team-high 17 points in the first half, and Nana Opoku scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Deandre Thomas was also in double-figure scoring for the Mount with 10 points.
The Terriers were fueled by a 27 point effort by junior point guard Rob Higgins, who also grabbed five rebounds and had three assists.
“Give credit to Rob Higgins who put their team on his back tonight and we didn’t really have any answers for him,” said Engelstad. “He had a career night and that’s been the trend the last couple of games in our own building [that] we’re letting guys have career nights, and as a defensive team, that can’t be the case.”
Benjamin being out hurt the Mount as he is the team’s top scorer, while Jefferson is one of the team’s top rebounders.
“We had a couple of guys down, but that’s not an excuse. We have good enough players to play better than we did tonight and you know it’s hard when you turn the ball over the way we did and we didn’t shoot it well from three tonight.”
Mount turned the ball over 14 times on Thursday night, and shot under 20 percent from three for the 2nd time this month, after shooting 48 percent on average from three in January. Despite the dip in three point average, Mount still leads the NEC in three point percentage (.347)
Mount could have clinched a home game in the conference tournament quarterfinals with a win on Thursday, but with the loss, the Mountaineers lead St. Francis Brooklyn by two games in the standings with three games remaining in the regular season.
The top four teams in the NEC regular season standings earn a home game in the conference tournament quarterfinals. Mount is currently tied for fourth in the NEC standings with Merrimack, who is not eligible to participate in the NEC Tournament.
The Mount will host their senior day on Saturday, February 19, when it hosts third-place LIU. Tip-off for the game is set for 4:00 p.m.