EMMITSBURG, Md. – Mount St. Mary’s picked up it’s first win of the season, defeating Washington College 117-62, in front of the first crowd at Knott Arena since February of 2020.
“We have guys on our roster that didn’t know what Knott Arena was like,” said Mount head coach Dan Engelstad. “Now they’ve experienced it, and to share the banner from last year with [the fans], knowing that they were watching, and now here in person, that was big for our program. [It was] big for our guys to see it because it means something to the people here at Mount St. Mary’s. Basketball is important [here].”
Mount saw five players in double figure scoring in a game where the Mountaineers scored 117 points – the most points Mount has scored in a game since moving to NCAA Division I in 1988-89.
In his Knott Arena debut, Jalen Benjamin won over fans with a game high 20 point performance, making 6-of-9 from three-point range. He also had seven assists.
“I like the sevens assists and one turnover.” said Engelstad. “That’s something that wasn’t as strong of his game coming in here [but] this is what we envisioned. This is a guy who could come in and makes you pay. If you’re going to give him any space – he’s going to knock it down.”
Malik Jefferson had another strong showing, shooting 8-8 from the field for 16 points. The 6’9 senior from Hopewell, Va. has made 14-of-15 (.933) from the field through the first two games this season which is currently the best field goal percentage in the country of players that have attempted at least 10 shots.
“It’s definitely nice, especially coming off of a game with such big guys at Villanova, to be able to, you know, get some confidence – a couple dunks,” said Jefferson. “It was a good night for our guys.”
Nana Opoku (14 points, six rebounds), freshman Jaylin Gibson (14 points, six rebounds), Josh Reaves (12 points, two steals) were the other three Mountaineers in double figure scoring.
Defensively, and more evident in the first half, Mount gave up easy buckets on missed assignments and were beat more than a few times on the back door.
“The one thing that we as program stress is that we want to be an elite defensive team and we were anything but that in the first half,” said Engelstad. “We had a spirited conversation about that just because we are trying to form and identity as a basketball team, and for us, we got to learn lessons whether it’s in playing a high major in one of the best teams in the country in Villanova or you’re playing a Division III opponent. We need to focus on us to be elite and we were not elite on the side of the ball and that’s going to be something that have to improve upon as this years goes on if we want to be successful.”
Mount St. Mary’s will play it’s next four games on the road including another game at a top 10 team in Kentucky,