Moon Township, Pa. (March 11, 2014) – The Mount St. Mary's men's basketball team secured the program's fourth Northeast Conference Championship with Tuesday's 88-71 victory over top-seeded Robert Morris in the NEC Championship game at the Sewall Center. The win also secures the Mount's fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament at the Division I level, the program's first since 2008.
The fourth-seeded Mountaineers (16-16), which never trailed in the game, used a balanced attack featuring five players in double figures to become just the second fourth seed to ever win the NEC Men's Basketball Tournament. Tournament MVP Rashad Whack finished with a team-high 20 points to help Head Coach Jamion Christian win his first championship in just his second season at his alma mater.
In front of a raucous crowd of 3,024, Julian Norfleet notched 17 points, while Sam Prescott and Taylor Danaher added 15 apiece and Will Miller chipped in with 11 off the bench. RMU (21-13) received a game-high 21 points from NEC Player of the Year Karvel Anderson to go with 11 points from both Lucky Jones and Charles Oliver.
The Mount had its second-best shooting performance of the season, going 32-of-53 (60.4 percent), including an 8-of-18 (44.4 percent) clip from beyond the three-point arc.
Hot shooting by hitting three of their first five attempts got the Mountaineers off to a fast start. Danaher knocked down a jumper and finished a layup for an early 9-4 advantage 4:30 into the game.
Norfleet's coast-to-coast layup off the glass made it 16-8 with 12:22 showing on the first half clock, and later in the half, Norfleet's quick release three from the top of the key made it 21-13 in favor of the visitors. After a stop on defense on the Colonials' next possession, Whack's mid-range jumper made it 23-13 for the Mount's first 10-point advantage.
Norfleet, who was named to the NEC All-Tournament team, found himself alone at the top of the arc on a feed from Whack and connected on another three for a 28-17 edge that sparked an 11-0 run for the Mount. Miller, who had taken just two shots in the NEC Tournament leading up to Tuesday, drained three-pointers on back-to-back possessions for a 37-17 Mount lead with 6:33 to go in the first half.
In the final two minutes of the half, Prescott hit a jumper and a layup and Danaher notched a pair of free throws for a 48-32 lead heading to halftime. It was the 16th time the Mount has been leading after 20 minutes this season.
The Colonials worked to cut into Mount's advantage, and trailed by just 10 at 57-47 with 12:44 left in the game with a 9-0 run. When it looked like the Colonials would cut the lead to single digits, Danaher came up with a huge block, and Whack hit a three on the other end for a 60-47 edge in a five-point swing.
Prescott got the Mount faithful on their feet with a steal and monstrous dunk for a 66-49 lead halfway through the second half. Less than two minutes later, the Mount came away with steals on consecutive defensive stands leading to a layup from Prescott and breakaway dunk from Whack for a 72-54 advantage.
When RMU went on a 7-2 run to cut the lead down to 78-64, the Mount answered with a 7-0 stretch to put the game out of reach.
The Mount, which outrebounded the Colonials by a 32-26 margin, saw all 11 players in uniform play in the game to cap the complete team victory.
The Mount will wait for Selection Sunday on March 16 to find out their matchup for the NCAA Tournament.
GAME NOTES: Rashad Whack, Julian Norfleet and Sam Prescott were named to the NEC All-Tournament Team… Rashad Whack was named NEC Tournament MVP… The Mount improved its record to 6-1 in NEC Tournament games as the No. 4 Seed… The Mount is now 23-14 overall in NEC Tournament games… The Mount is 29-27 versus Robert Morris in the all-time series.