Last Saturday, in the annual Wall-O’Mahony game honoring Matt O’Mahony and Glen Wall, who both passed away in the tragedy of Sept. 11, the No. 14-ranked men’s basketball team outscored the Muhlenberg Mules 82-73 to capture their 17th win of the season.
Junior guard Joey Kern scored 18 points, going 5-of-7 from the floor and 6-of-6 from the line to lead all Blue Jays in scoring.
While neither team led by more than two points in the opening five minutes, a Hopkins run in the latter half of the first half ensured an uphill battle for the Mules.
As the Jays held a 48-32 lead over Muhlenberg going into halftime, it seemed as though the hosts would coast to another Centennial Conference victory.
Hopkins shot very well in the first half, making just over 50 percent of their shots, including 33 percent of their three-point attempts, to jump out to a commanding lead.
However, this shooting success did not stick with them going into the second half. The slow offensive start gave the Mules the very opportunity they needed to scratch their way back into the game.
After trailing 52-32 with under 18 minutes left in the second period, the Mules surged back, going on a 29-7 run, giving them a one-point lead.
A clutch jumper by senior Matt Gnias made the score 61-60, putting the Jays behind the eight ball. Sophomore Dan Gaines lead the charge and lead all players in scoring with 28 points.
Hopkins responded to Muhlenberg’s push with a layup by junior guard Conner Delaney, who would spark a nine-point run for the Blue Jays, pushing the lead back up to 71-65 in favor of Hopkins with 5:17 in regulation left to play.
Muhlenberg would attempt to retake control of the game, cutting the lead down to only two points after more buckets by Gaines, but Kern and sophomore forward Tom Quarry went on to make four consecutive free throws, pushing the lead back to 11 for Hopkins with 1:03 left on the clock, effectively icing the game.
Delaney discussed the Mules’ comeback in the second half and how the victorious squad responded.
“I thought we had a pretty solid second half except for a few minutes where Muhlenberg came back. They were able to get hot from three, and we got cold,” he said. “But, as we have done most of the year, we were able to get big buckets in crunch time and get needed stops down the stretch to close it out.”
Delaney also reflected on what else needs to be done to maintain their winning streak.
“I think we need to continue to realize that we can be better than we have been playing. We all know that we are not perfect all the time, and in order to keep winning games, we need to keep having great practices and continue to improve as a team and as individuals.”
He then also discussed the team goals for the season in light of their sustained success.
“Our goal for the season hasn’t changed since we started. We want to host the Centennial Conference tournament, win the Conference tournament and then win the national championship,” Delaney said. “The last one is a very big goal, but we all know what this team is capable of when we are playing our best.”
This win puts the Hopkins current win streak up to eight, as they hold their second-place spot in the Centennial Conference and try to keep pace with No.1-ranked Swarthmore College Garnet.
Hopkins improved to 42-25 all-time against Muhlenberg, winning the last two of their meetings. Next up, the Blue Jays will be traveling to Carlisle, Pa. to take on Dickinson on Thursday, Feb. 6.