BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Moravian College is continuing its look back at its 2016-17 athletic campaign. The final game in the Top 10 Exciting Games from the past year is our No. 1 highlight – the men's basketball squad rallied to defeat No. 11 Susquehanna University, 80-77, for the program's first victory over a nationally-ranked opponent since 2001.
The Greyhounds, who are in the top ten for a second time after the No. 5 story on the team's double-overtime win over Juniata College, completed the year with a 19-9 record while playing in the Landmark Conference Championship game and ECAC Division III Tournament Quarterfinals. The Hounds, who also defeated Susquehanna in the Landmark Conference Semifinals, used the win on the last weekend of January as part of a four-game conference winning streak to help clinch the program's first home playoff game since 2007-08.
On the afternoon of January 28, the Greyhounds welcomed the River Hawks to Johnston Hall as the teams met for the second time in the conference schedule. Three weeks earlier, Susquehanna had defeated the Hounds by 12 points in Selinsgrove but it would be a different outcome in Johnston Hall where Moravian had a 10-2 record in 2016-17.
"This was a great college basketball game for all involved from players to coaches to fans. Both teams really competed for 40 minutes and the players played at a high level," stated Head Coach Justin Potts, who was in his second season leading his alma mater. "Any chance you get to play a ranked team is a great opportunity and on this day we took advantage of it. Our guys did a great job of executing and playing Moravian Basketball. I was happy for our guys to have the chance to experience a win like this. I was an assistant last time we beat a ranked opponent at home and these type of games will be remembered by the players for a long time."
The River Hawks opened the scoring just 19 seconds into the game but the lead lasted eight seconds before senior forward Brandon McGuire connected on the first of Moravian's 12 three-pointers in the game, which ended up being the difference in the contest. The Greyhounds led 8-4 after a three-point play from sophomore guard Jimmy Murray at the 17:42 mark of the first half. However, Susquehanna scored eight straight points to build a 12-8 lead four minutes into the contest.
Moravian would get a three-pointer from sophomore forward Jake McGee and a jumper by Murray to move back in front, 16-15, before the River Hawks went on a 13-2 run and take a 28-18 lead with 9:30 left in the opening half. Murray hit a pair of treys and senior guard Sean Hanna connected on a three-pointer to get Moravian back within a point, 28-27, a minute and a half later.
Freshman guard C.J. Barnes gave the Hounds a 32-31 lead with a three-pointer at 6:23, and the Greyhounds were up 39-37 after a three-pointer by freshman guard Mike Martino with 2:22 before the intermission. The River Hawks hit a three-pointer in the final minute of the half to head to the locker room with a 43-41 advantage.
Hanna opened the second half with a pair of free throws to knot the score at 43-43, and the Blue and Grey had a four-point lead, 52-48, after a lay-up by McGuire 4:15 into the half. However, an 8-0 run by Susquehanna put the River Hawks ahead, 56-52, a minute and a half later. Susquehanna eventually pushed its lead back to double digits at 68-58 with 10:16 left in the contest.
Down 70-61, Moravian went for the long shots again with Murray and sophomore guard Will Brazukas each connecting on three-pointers. Hanna would tie the game for the seventh time at 70-70 with a traditional three-point play as he sank the free throw with 6:52 remaining. The River Hawks made a free throw for a one-point edge before Murray gave the Greyhounds the lead once again, 72-71, on a jumper with 4:32 left.
After the River Hawks tied the contest at 73-73, senior guard Isaiah Jennings hit a free throw to finish a three-point play and put the Hounds up 76-73; however, two baskets from Susquehanna had the River Hawks ahead 77-76 with 1:49 remaining. McGuire hit a lay-up 14 seconds later as Moravian moved back in front by a point. Both team's missed shots on their next possession, and a steal by Murray gave the Greyhounds the ball with 21 seconds left. Hanna was fouled with 15 ticks left on the clock and calmly sank both free throws for the 80-77 lead. Each team committed a turnover before the River Hawks had a final three-point attempt just before the buzzer bounce off of the rim as Murray grabbed the rebound to seal the victory for the Hounds.
Murray connected on a game-high 21 points to lead three Moravian players in double figures, and he was 4-for-5 behind the three-point line. McGuire finished with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists while Hanna also tossed in 16 points to go along with five boards, three assists and a pair of steals. Freshman forward John Hargraves contributed six points and three blocked shots while Jennings had five points. Sophomore forward Oneil Holder, Brazukas, Martino, Barnes and McGee all had three-pointers in the contest as the squad was 12-for-27 beyond the arc in the victory.
"Our seniors stepped up and made plays in big moments and the guys stuck together all day and found a way to beat a really good team," noted Potts. "The atmosphere and support of the campus community that day was a big boost to our guys. They fed off the crowd's energy all day. It was a great win for our program and it was a great day to be a Hound."
Read the original game story at http://moraviansports.com/sports/mbkb/2016-17/releases/20170128tmbo68 with links to stats, photos and video of the game.
With the Top 10 Exciting Games of 2016-17 countdown completed, Moravian will begin looking at its Top 10 Stories of the Year with number 10 being released on Wednesday, July 26.