On Nov. 8, 2022, the Muhlenberg men’s basketball team tipped off their 2022-2023 season against the Moravian University Greyhounds. Following an extremely competitive 40 minutes of basketball, the Mules were able to pull away in the final minute and capture the victory against the Greyhounds, defeating them 77-74 in a very competitive environment. The team was led by their two upper-classmen guards, Daniel Gaines ‘22 and Giovanni Rubino ‘24, both of whom scored 23 points with efficient shooting, shooting 9/15 and 9/16 from the field, respectively.
Gaines and Rubino high-scoring numbers are no shocker, as Gaines is the fourth fastest 1,000-point scorer in school history, and in the final nine games of last season, Rubino averaged around 15 points per contest. Rubino—who was recently awarded the Centennial Conference men’s basketball athlete of the week—knows that the team relies on Gaines and himself in situations where they need a basket, and overall to consistently put up high-scoring performances. He talked about why he and Gaines have been so successful on the court together, saying “playing with Dan has been great and I think our play styles complement each other really well. We’ve been able to be effective both on and off the ball, and playing with a player as good as Dan makes my job a lot easier.” When asked about the pressure of knowing that sometimes the team may give him the ball and ask him to find a way to score, Rubino said “as far as the pressure, I wouldn’t say I feel any pressure at all. I’m lucky that my teammates and coaches trust me with the ball in key situations and I’m really just looking to make the right play in those moments. Whether that’s scoring or passing, I’m just trying to make the right reads.”
Starting power forward, Tommy McGuire ‘23, who also had a great game, posting his second career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, talked about how they were able to battle and get the win against Moravian. “We were prepared for the situation because we go over stuff like that (games coming down to the final few possessions) in practice all the time. We go over late-game situations a lot so, come game time, we are confident we can execute to the best of our ability,” said McGuire. He also acknowledged that the Moravian crowd was pretty hectic, however, there was a good number of Muhlenberg supporters that made the trip to Moravian to watch the game in person. McGuire gave a shout-out to those supporters of the team: “We owe that victory to all the fans who made the trip to Bethlehem. Knowing they had our back behind enemy lines gave us that extra push to get the win.”
This game was Gaines’ first game back following his season-ending injury that ended his time playing 11 games into the season last year. Rubino made it clear that Gaines’ injury is far behind him: “I think he’s done a great job coming back from a season-ending injury last year which is never easy. He’s really been a leader for us and his ability to play on and off the ball makes him so easy to play with. He is not only unselfish but extremely humble as well and I feel really confident going into games with him back.”
The team knows that despite it being great that they started the season with a win, there is still a lot more basketball to be played this season and much more to improve on. McGuire harped on what they can take away from the opener: “I think we shared the ball extremely well. We have so many players who can make plays and I am confident as the season continues, we will all settle into a groove. We need to improve defensively however if we want to compete in our conference. I am confident as we get more experience as a team, that end of the floor will come along. Even though we won our first game, we cannot get complacent and be satisfied with our initial success. It’s a long season and we have to stay resilient.”
Following a victory against Susquehanna University last Saturday, Nov. 12th and a win versus Kings College yesterday, Nov. 16, the team has started the season on fire, winning their first three games. Their next game is an away matchup against Swarthmore University—the number two ranked team in the 2022 men’s basketball Centennial Conference preseason poll—on Nov. 22, at 7 p.m. This will also be their first conference matchup of the season. Hopefully, the Mules can go back to their families for Thanksgiving still being undefeated.