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Men’s Basketball Falls In NEC Regular Season Finale, 73-62, At Mount St. Mary’s

(Cooper, Wagner)

Emmitsburg, MD –  Following a defensive-minded first half, in which the Wagner men's basketball team and the Mount St. Mary's were deadlocked at 31-31, the Mountaineers opened the second half on a 17-6 run over the first 6:13 and didn't look back as the Seahawks were defeated, 73-62, on Saturday in the Northeast Conference (NEC) regular season finale at Knott Arena. 

With the loss, the Seahawks fall to 21-8 on the season and finish with an NEC mark of 14-4, while the Mountaineers improve to 18-13 overall, 12-6 in NEC play, which clinched the No. 2 seed, two games back of the Seahawks.

The 21-wins by the 2017-18 Seahawks are tied fourth on the all-time single-season wins' mark, along with the 2002-03 squad that captured the program's lone NEC championship. Wagner's 14 conference victories are the most under sixth-year head coach Bashir Mason, whose previous high was 13, set back in 2015-16.
 
The top-seeded Seahawks will host eighth-seeded Central Connecticut, 78-75 overtime winners over St. Francis Brooklyn today, on Wednesday, February 28 in a 7:00 p.m. tip at the Spiro Sports Center.  All NEC quarterfinals, and should Wagner advance into the semifinals on March 3, will be streamed on NEC Front Row while the championship game, set for March 6, will be nationally-televised on ESPN2 at 7:00 p.m.

Redshirt junior guard Romone Saunders led three Seahawks in double-figures as the Temple Hills, MD native registered his second double-double of the season and third of his career, finishing with 16 points and a career-high 17 caroms.
 
Senior guard and three-time NEC Player of the Week, JoJo Cooper, led the team in scoring on the afternoon, dropping in 18 points while playing the full forty. Sophomore guard Blake Francis, who was plagued by early foul trouble, ended the contest with 11 points before fouling out.
 
Junior Robinson led all scorers with a game-high 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the floor while dishing out four assists and recording two steals. Donald Carey concluded the contest with 14 points, nine of which coming on three first-half trifectas. Bobby Planutis chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds while Chris Wray filled up the stat sheet with 11 points, nine rebounds, six blocks, five assists and a steal for the Mountaineers.
 
The Seahawks were within two points at 37-35 following a dunk by junior guard Devin Liggeons, but the Mount then went on an 11-2 burst over the next three minutes in building an 11-point lead at 48-37.

A pair of Cooper free throws at the 14:05 mark made it a 48-39 game, but Wray answered with a dunk off a feed from Carey to make it 51-39 and the Mount was able to maintain its double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Wagner held a commanding 51-38 rebounding advantage but the couldn't find their shooting touch and combined with the Mount's 9-of-18 effort from three-point range and an eight-point edge at the free throw line, proved too much for the Seahawks to overcome.
 
Both team's defenses held the upper hand during a first half was stalemated at 31-31 at the break. Wagner jumped out to an early 6-1 lead, while only hitting one field goal over the first three minutes of play. Mount used a 6-0 run to take a slim 9-6 lead at the 14:30 mark with back-to-back three-pointers from Carey. 

The Seahawks responded by scoring ten of the next 15 points over a five-minute span in taking a 16-14 lead as the Green & White went 5-of-9 from the field while holding the Mountaineers to just one made field goal during this stretch, a Planutis three-pointer at the 9:43 mark. The Mount matched its largest lead of the stanza, a slim 21-18 edge, thanks to a 7-2 spurt over the next three minutes. Over the final 5:34 of the first half, Wagner outscored the Mountaineers, 13-10, but Robinson's layup with just forty-five seconds left before halftime forged the halftime tie.
 
Wagner, which was held to just 28.9 percent from the floor, got most of their points from Saunders. Playing his first-ever game at Knott Arena, Saunders produced a double-double in the opening half, scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebound en route to his second double-double of the season.

When play resumed for the second half, the Mountaineers were firing on all cylinders, opening the frame on a 17-6 outburst in taking a 48-37 lead. Robinson led the charge, scoring eight of the 17 points during the run while limiting Wagner to just three made field goals.
 
The Seahawks found a way to cut the deficit back to single digits, 56-47, at the 6:13 mark, scoring ten of the next 18 points despite both teams struggling over an eight-minute stretch, in which the two combined to shoot 5-for-21 from the field and 1-of-6 from downtown.
 
After trading buckets over the next two minutes, in which Wagner found themselves again down by nine, 60-51, with 3:53, the Mountaineers put the game away scoring 13 of the contest's final 24 points in defeating stopping Wagner's three-game winning streak.


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