This past weekend, the Hopkins men’s basketball team took on Centennial Conference opponent, the Muhlenberg College Mules, at Goldfarb Gymnasium. The Blue Jays sit at 2-0 in the Conference and 6-0 on the season, keeping their undefeated record going into December.
The game started off close, as Hopkins held a small 12-10 lead just under six minutes in. From that point, the Jays then went on a 9-2 run, with four baskets from four different players.
Freshman guard Joey Kern had the hot hand for Hopkins early, hitting four three-pointers in the first half.
Sophomore forward Harry O’Neil spoke highly of the team’s ability to score, one that spans up and down the roster.
“I think our offense has been playing really well and should be set up in a great position to continue that through Conference play,” O’Neil said. “We have so many talented offensive players in our system that it’s nearly impossible to shut all of us down for the entirety of a game,” he added.
The Mules chipped away at the Jays and were able to cut the lead to 29-24, after which Hopkins went on another run and took a 41-28 lead into halftime.
Along with Kern and O’Neil, freshman guard Conner Delaney helped spark the Jays’ offense. O’Neil had eight points, while Delaney had four points and three assists in the half.
O’Neil has provided a strong offensive presence in the paint for the Jays after having knee surgery during the offseason.
“Coming back from the surgery was a long process, so it definitely has felt great to be able to help the team out immediately and contribute to a couple big wins over the past week,” O’Neil said.
Delaney, who leads the Blue Jays with 4.7 assists per game, spoke about what it has been like making such a strong impact as a freshman and adapting to college play.
“It’s been a great experience so far with the team,” Delaney said. “Every game I’m becoming more comfortable with the speed of the game and gaining confidence.”
Early in the second half, Hopkins maintained a sizeable lead, at one point extending it to 17. However, Muhlenberg continued to put up a fight. After a jumper from senior JeanLee Baez, the Mules cut the Blue Jays’ lead to six, with the score at 52-46.
Two three-pointers from senior guard Jesse Flannery and junior guard Michael Gardner put the Mules away for good, solidifying a 66-55 win for Hopkins.
The Jays’ top performers were Kern and O’Neil, who both set career-highs with 17 and 15 points, respectively. O’Neil also finished with nine rebounds, barely missing his first career double-double.
The Blue Jays are dominating the all-time series against the Mules, as this win improves their head-to-head record to 42-18. Additionally, the team’s seven-game win streak is the best since the 2006-2007 season, when the Jays started the season off with a 9-0 record.
With a 3-0 start to Conference play, the Jays find themselves atop the Conference standings, alongside Swarthmore College and Franklin & Marshall College, both of whom are nationally ranked.
Now seven games into Head Coach Josh Loeffler’s career at Hopkins, O’Neil discussed how the team has adapted from former Head Coach Bill Nelson’s system.
“The transition has been very smooth,” he said. “Coach Nelson was a great coach for us, and I was definitely sad to see him go, but Coach Loeffler has come in and carried on the legacy that Coach Nelson built.”
Thus far, along with a successful offense, the Jays have found strengths in their defense that have enabled them to be successful in ways that they believe will allow them to achieve their goals for the season.
“I think our defense has been the biggest factor for our undefeated start,” Delaney said. “We have done a great job of learning the tendencies of the opponents and trying to take away their strengths.”
Though the Jays have started the season with a perfect 7-0 record, O’Neil spoke about how their focus remains on the goal they have had from the get go.
“Our main goal for the season is to win the Conference,” O’Neil said. “I think with the way we’ve been playing to kick off the season, we are capable, but it’s gonna take a big effort from all 14 guys on the team, as there are some great teams in the Conference that we’ll have to beat.”
The Jays will next square off against New Jersey City University on Friday, Dec. 29, at 7 p.m. as part of the Crowne Plaza Captains Shootout in Newport News, Va.