BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The second seed Moravian College men's basketball team scored 50 points in the second half to knock off third seed and No. 17 ranked Susquehanna University, 81-69, in a Landmark Conference Semifinal game in Johnston Hall Wednesday evening and advance to the first-ever conference championship contest in program history.
Moravian will head to top seed The University of Scranton for the Landmark Conference Championship game on Saturday, February 25 with tip-off scheduled for 4:00 p.m. in the John Long Center.
"I thought our guys did a really good job tonight from start to finish of competing, and we talked about staying in the moment, not having any playoff experience," commented second-year Head Coach Justin Potts. "I think they did a good job of that, not getting too high or too low while executing at both ends of the floor. I thought crowd was unbelievable, which I think we were able to feed off of. We talk about trying to earn the next opportunity and we did that tonight. Now we have to see what we can do on Saturday against Scranton."
The Greyhounds also tied the school record with their 19th win of the season, tying the 1982-83 and 1987-88 teams that were both 19-8. The 2016-17 squad is now 19-7 after its sixth consecutive win and 10th victory in 11 games. Moravian also snapped a nine-game losing streak in the postseason with the program's first postseason win since a 71-62 victory over Dickinson College on February 20, 1990 in Johnston Hall. Earlier in the day, the Greyhounds received their first NCAA Division III Regional Ranking since 2007-08 at eighth in the Mid-Atlantic Region, and a number of players from the 2007-08 team were in Johnston Hall Wednesday evening.
"I brought that up to the guys before the game that the program hadn't won a playoff game in that long," Potts said. "We talked about in life that you get chances to have moments and tonight could be a moment that they'll remember, and I think they will remember it. Having played here and seeing the number of alums that were here tonight, that made it even more special. The credit goes to guys. Our seniors have done a great job and the young guys have bought into what we're doing. They earned it tonight, they competed and they stayed with everything. It is just a great moment for the program in general to see all their hard work be rewarded and to see the crowd that came out to support them was special."
Moravian had three players in double figures led by senior forward Brandon McGuire, who had his 14th double-double of the year and 32nd of his career with 27 points and 12 rebounds to go with three steals and a pair of blocked shots. McGuire became the ninth player in school history to reach 1,300 points, now with 1,307, and he is fourth all-time in Moravian's record books with 749 rebounds.
Senior guard Sean Hanna hit the 20-point mark for the second time in five days with 20 points including 12-of-14 at the foul line, and Hanna added three rebounds and three steals while sophomore guard Jimmy Murray added 14 points, two boards and a pair of blocked shots. Sophomore forward Jake McGee had seven points while sophomore forward Oneil Holder contributed six points, five blocked shots and four rebounds.
Sophomore guard Will Brazukas added five points, three assists and two steals while senior guard Isaiah Jennings had three assists, two steals, two points and two boards as he moved into a tie for sixth with 101 career games played.
Susquehanna scored off of the opening tip while McGuire scored on a put back as Moravian knotted the score at 2-2. The teams traded the lead before lay-ups from Murray and McGuire had the Greyhounds leading 12-8 just over five and a half minutes into action. The River Hawks ran off five straight points to move ahead, 13-12, but Susquehanna would be unable to get its advantage to more than a point.
Hanna connected on two free throws and a lay-up for a 20-15 Moravian lead with 9:34 left in the opening half only to see the River Hawks knot the score at 20-20. The contest was tied four more times in the first half before Moravian took a 31-28 lead with 19 seconds left on a three-point play by Murray. However, Susquehanna hit two free throws and then a jumper at the buzzer to head to the locker room with a 32-31 advantage.
Murray hit a lay-up to start the second half as Moravian took a 33-32 lead. The River Hawks regained the advantage on a pair of free throws before a three-point play by Hanna with 18:17 remaining gave the Greyhounds the lead back. Susquehanna knotted the score for the ninth time in the game at 36-36 at 17:40 but just 12 seconds later McGuire connected on another three-pointer as Moravian took the lead for good.
McGee hit a jumper and a three-pointer to extend the Greyhounds' lead to 46-38 with 14:36 remaining but the River Hawks would fight back to get within a point, 46-45 with 12:08 remaining. The Blue and Grey responded with a 9-0 run as another three-pointer by McGuire had the Hounds' lead at 55-45 with 10:23 on the clock. Moravian still had a 10-point lead, 59-49, before Susquehanna went on another run to get with three points, 61-58, with 5:45 remaining. McGuire, Hanna and Holder helped the Greyhounds push back with eight straight points for a 69-58 advantage.
The Greyhounds would seal the victory at the foul line over the last 2:35 with Hanna and Brazukas each going 5-for-6 at the charity stripe. Moravian was 22-for-31 at the line in the game including 19-of-26 in the final 20 minutes of action.
Moravian heads to Scranton on Saturday, February 25 to play for the Landmark Conference Championship starting at 4:00 p.m. The winner will receive the conference's automatic berth to the 2017 NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament that begins on March 3.