Saturday, February 10, 2018

Wilkes Men’s Basketball Clinches Tournament Berth with Victory over Misericordia

(Photo courtesy of Wilkes University Sports Information)
WILKES-BARRE – Despite a slow start, the Wilkes University men’s basketball team stormed back over the final three-quarters of play to come away with not only an 86-72 victory, but also a berth in the Middle Atlantic Conference Freedom (MAC Freedom) tournament after defeating Misericordia University at the Marts Center on Saturday afternoon. This is the Colonels first trip to the playoffs since the 2015-16 season, when Wilkes defeated DeSales during the semifinals in Center Valley before falling to Delaware Valley at the finals.

Wilkes improved to 17-6 overall and 10-2 in MAC Freedom play. This is the most wins for the Colonels since the 2011-12 season when Wilkes finished the year with a 17-10 record. The Colonels last reached double-digit victories in conference during the 2008-09 season, going 10-6.

The game began with each team trading baskets until the 16:50 mark of the first half. At that point, Wilkes was leading 10-7 after a Marcus Robinson layup, but the Cougars followed with a 15-3 run over the next five-plus minutes to jump out to a 22-13 lead.

Misericordia maintained its nine-point lead until the 8:05 mark at 26-17 but the Colonels finished the half on a 17-3 run to enter halftime up 34-29.

Wilkes started the second frame on a 6-2 run to push its advantage to 40-31 following a Rob Pecorelli three-ponter just 1:54 into the half.

The Cougars followed that with a 13-2 run to retake the lead at 44-42 with 13:34 remaining in the game and appeared to be gaining its firepower. However, the Colonels would not allow them to break away as neither team was able to grab an advantage of more than two points over the next three-plus minutes.

Wilkes broke that chain after Mark Mullins and Pecorelli both converted layups to give the Colonels a 55-51 lead with 8:35 showing on the clock. With 6:43 left, Mullins made another layup to give Wilkes a 60-55 lead but was quickly matched by a three-pointer from Misericordia.

After both teams exchanged turnovers, the Colonels were unable to convert a shot from long range but Mullins pulled in the offensive rebound before Pecorelli laid it in for a 62-58 lead and 5:53 remaining in the game.

The Cougars missed a layup on their next possession, and after Robinson gained the defensive board, he was found on the other end for a key three-pointer to extend the advantage to seven points at 65-58 and 5:14 left.

Wilkes continued to make key basket after key basket, as Mullins and Zach Brunner (twice) each found the bottom of the net to push the lead to 10 with just under four minutes left to play.

After reaching a 13-point advantage following two Connor Evans free throws at 76-63 and 2:01 on the clock, Misericordia cut the lead to 78-70 with 1:22 left following a 7-2 run.

The Colonels finished the game by converting all six free throws with layup by Tommy Bowen after Bowen and Robinson found themselves on a two-on-one following a Bowen steal on an inbound pass.

On the day that he was honored for reaching the 1,000-point plateau, Robinson matched his season-high with 23 points, adding four rebounds and two steals. Brunner finished with 20 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals, while Pecorell had 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Mark Mullins waited until late in the contest to start his scoring, but he added to the effort with 14 rebounds and eight points. Wilkes shot 52 percent (30-58) from the floor and 41 percent (9-22) from three-point range.

The Cougars were led by Tony Harding’s game-high 25 points and six rebounds. Jason Kenny (18 points, seven assists) and Stone McCreary (12 points) rounded out the scorers in double-figures.

The Colonels dominated the battle on the glass, out-rebounding Misericordia 42-27, including securing 11 on the offensive side compared to just three on that end for the Cougars.

Wilkes returns to action on Tuesday this week, heading just up the road to King’s College for an 8:00 p.m. meeting, which will be the 100th time both programs have faced each other.

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