HAVERFORD, Pa. – It was a true team effort from the Haverford College men's basketball team on Tuesday night as the Fords turned an 11-point deficit into a nail-biting victory inside the Gooding '84 Arena. Led by a triple-double from senior Gibby Graves, the Fords (2-2, 1-1 CC) evened their conference record with an 80-77 win against Muhlenberg (3-2, 0-1 CC).
Graves recorded just the eighth triple-double in Centennial Conference history as he scored 12 points, pulled down 14 rebounds and dished out 11 assists. His triple-double was the first in conference history for Haverford. The last Centennial Conference player to record a triple-double was Ursinus' Remy Cousart on February 21, 2009. In addition to Graves' heroics, Matt Sherman led the Fords with 21 points, while Anthony Reyes poured in 17 points off the bench. Four other Fords scored at least six points in the win. Muhlenberg's Malique Killing matched Sherman with 21 points in the game to lead a quartet of Mules in double figures.
The opening half proved to be a back-and-forth battle with each team taking leads of six points in the opening 20 minutes. The score was knotted four times in the opening eight-plus minutes before Haverford got a 3-pointer from Lucas Colombo, while Graves converted a plus-one opportunity at the line to put Haverford up 20-14. However, the Mules cut Haverford's lead to one point and finished off the half with seven of the last nine points to take a 39-33 lead into the locker room.
The Mules extended their lead to a game-high 11 points with five straight points to start the second half. Haverford got that deficit down to five points by the 16:28 mark of the half, but Muhlenberg extended its lead back to double figures, 54-44, with 12:56 to play in the game.
This time, it was Haverford's turn to a make a run and it would be do so in a big way. Graves dished out a pair of assists to both Sherman and Reyes as they connected from beyond the arc, cutting the deficit to four points. Graves then cranked up the defensive intensity with a steal that he turned into his own two points. A fourth straight defensive stop from Haverford allowed Reyes to collect the defensive rebound and he would again connect from 3-point land to give Haverford its first lead since the opening half before he capped off the Fords' 13-0 run with two more points to give his team a 57-54 lead at the midway point of the second half.
Muhlenberg would not go down without a fight and the Muhls tied the game at 61-all with 7:21 left in regulation after Killing converted his own and-one chance. The Fords countered the Mules' brief spurt by scoring eight of the next 10 points, taking their largest lead of the night, 71-63, with just two minutes left in the game. Muhlenberg cut that Haverford advantage down to four points before Sherman stepped to the line and hit 3-of-4 from the free throw line in the next two possessions.
Reyes would take his turn by hitting four straight from the line in the Fords' following two trips down the court, but a strong Muhlenberg offense kept the Mules within striking distance. The Mules got their much needed defensive stop trailing by four with 22 seconds left in the game as they forced a Haverford turnover.
The Fords appeared to have a defensive stop of their own, but were called for a foul on the 3-point shot attempt during the next defensive set. The Mules' Alec Stavetski then dropped all three of his attempts to make the score 78-77 with 10 seconds to play. Henry Stevens was fouled on the inbounds for Haverford and he calmly drained both his attempts to put Haverford back up by three. The Fords did collect the defensive rebound on the next 3-point shot, but missed a pair of free throw attempts with eight-tenths of a second left on the clock.
On the second miss, Muhlenberg called for the timeout and was granted the immediate break with five-tenths of a second on the game clock. The Mules were forced to go the length of the floor in that short time, but Sherman was in position to knock away the final inbounds pass as the Mules never came close to getting a potential game-tying look.
Haverford finished the game with a 42-35 edge in rebounding, led by 14 from Graves and 12 more from Colombo. The Fords also shot 28-of-59 (47.5%) from the field, including 6-of-13 from distance.
Men's basketball will now turn its attention back to non-conference action for the weekend as Christopher Newport, a team receiving votes in the latest D3Hoops national poll, comes to campus this Sunday for a 2 p.m. tip.