The Mules close out their season with 8 conference games, with the playoffs well within reach
By: Jason Grant
After a stunning loss to Franklin and Marshall on Jan. 18, the Mules notched two big wins over conference opponents Gettysburg and Washington College last week. The men’s basketball team is currently sitting at 13-4, already improving on their win total from all of last season.
Last year the squad got off to a hot 6-2 start in what appeared to be a playoff-bound season. In the second half of the season, though, a few lackluster performances cost them a spot. They finished 9-9 in conference play. This included two losses each to rivals Gettysburg and Washington College.
On Jan. 22, Washington College traveled to Allentown for their second matchup of the season. The contest featured stellar performances from the sophomores on the team. Reigning Centennial Conference player of the week Dan Gaines continued his excellent form, leading all Muhlenberg scorers with 15 points and even making five assists. Nate Henty Brown ‘22, Dallas Hoffman ‘22 and Noah Watson ‘22 continued the sophomore surge with all three scoring in double figures as well. The game started to tighten up with only 6 minutes remaining, but the Mules were able to seal the win with a steal and a breakaway dunk from Michael Morreale ‘21.
Gaines won Centennial Conference Rookie of the Year last season and has shown no signs of slowing down.
“We have just been taking one practice and game at a time. We understand that we can beat or be beaten by any team in our conference on any given day,” Gaines expressed. “We do not want to take any team lightly. Knowing the playoffs are within reach has just given us more determination to work harder and reach that goal, especially knowing in the back of our minds that we came up just short last year.”
Although they suffered losses against Gettysburg last year, the team had no trouble with them this time around. The Mules defeated Gettysburg this past Saturday by a decisive 71-55 final score and were lead by Hoffman’s 18 points. Gaines added 10 points in another solid effort.
“I think the keys to our victories against Washington and Gettysburg [were] to just stick to our game plan and trust our teammates,” Gaines explained, crediting the team’s resilience. “Coach Hopkins always talks about making the extra pass and being there to help your teammates on defense, and I thought we did a great job with both those things in our games this past week.”
The Mules currently sit in fourth place in the conference with a 6-4 record, trailing only Johns Hopkins, Swarthmore and Haverford. All three are on the Mule’s remaining eight-game schedule in which they will play solely Centennial Conference opponents. They are currently two games above fifth-place challenger Gettysburg, who they will face in their final game of the regular season, and will no doubt carry confidence from their previous encounter.
“We feel as though every conference win, whether it be against the first- or last-place team, is extremely important for our confidence and belief going forward,” Gaines stressed. “We know when we play our best we are capable of competing with any team in our conference, so any win definitely gives us confidence.”
The Mules go on the road this week, traveling to Dickinson on Jan. 29 and following up with a huge game against second-place Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.