Mount St. Mary’s looked to continue their good run in the Northeastern Conference play against Merrimack College on Feb. 3 at Knott Arena. They took a five-game win streak into the game to look to improve their record even more and try to reduce the gap between schools Wagner (10-0) and Bryant (9-1). With the addition of Malik Jefferson (C’22), who had previously been unavailable to play in the last couple of games, the addition of another forward made Coach Dan Engelstad’s option greater in the paint.
The first half of the game started off with low scoring from both sides as it took almost five minutes for either side to put a good string of scoring together. After that slow start, the game progressed well and began to take off, as a queue of substitutes sat at the scorer’s table while both sides scored openly.
It was Merrimack, however, that found themselves a seven-point lead going into the last five minutes of the half. Engelstad’s players rallied and went on a 15-point run only letting Merrimack score three points within that period. With massive contributions from senior Nana Opoku (eight points at half) and Jefferson (five points at half), the team took a six-point lead into halftime at 29-24.
Coming out of the locker room into the second half, Engelstad and his players knew that they had to be more defensively sound and to keep a good run of scoring from the 1st half into the second. After the game, Opoku said, “We just have to stay locked in, just coming out in the second half…the game isn't over yet until that clock hits zero.” Mount upped their intensity, putting up forty points in the second half while only allowing twenty-nine from Merrimack to settle a score of 69-53 in favor of the Mountaineers.
With help from the long ball of sophomore Dakota Leffew (15 points) and the physical, under the rim play of Jefferson and Opoku (12 points each), the Mountaineers defeated a defensively sound side and improved their record to 7-4 in NEC play and added to their win streak which now sits at six games.