Thursday, February 16, 2017

Never-say-die Seahawks score statement win over Mount St. Mary's

Michael Carey's 16 points and 13 rebounds ignited Wagner rally in closing minutes as Seahawks completed 14-point comeback with resounding victory over Mount St. Mary's. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

STATEN ISLAND -- As Wagner entered Thursday night four games behind Northeast Conference leader Mount St. Mary's with four to play in the regular season, the reigning regular season crownholders were steadfast in their conviction that they would find a way toward the championship stage they arrived on last March.

Even while trailing by 14 points in the first half against the aforementioned Mountaineers, the outlook remained the same, and Michael Carey made sure of it.

The senior leader would not be denied, scoring 14 of his 16 points and ripping down 11 of his 13 rebounds after halftime as the Seahawks erased their double-digit deficit, stealing a 69-65 decision from The Mount at the Spiro Sports Center.

"I think in the second half, we played the way we're normally used to playing," said Carey, who ignited an effort that saw freshman Blake Francis post a career-high 20 points to lead all scorers as Wagner (13-12, 9-6 NEC) moved one step closer to the top of the standings. "Coach said it, we basically sleepwalked through the first half. We have to stop doing that."

Mount St. Mary's (14-14, 12-3 NEC) fed off an inconsistent Seahawk shooting display in the opening stanza, opening up a 32-18 cushion without their transition game needing to kick into gear. Moreover, their "Mayhem" philosophy, largely predicated on three-point shooting, was eschewed more than usual on a night where the Mountaineers attempted only 16 of their 58 shots from distance.

"One of the things you're going to do against us is you're going to limit us from taking threes," head coach Jamion Christian conceded. "They did a great job marking those guys and making sure they had a lot of people around them."

Yet there was another facet of the game in which the 34-year-old former Shaka Smart disciple considered to be a factor that befell his Mountaineers.

"I do feel like we'll look back at this film and say we had a lot of layup opportunities in the lane that we were capable of finishing," Christian lamented. "We've got to step up and finish. We're trying to take the most efficient shot we can get every game and in a lot of games, it's the three-point shot, but we're capable of finishing on the inside there."

Wagner led for just the final 3:20, but the Seahawks made their finishing stretch count as they slowly chipped away by getting stops and one rebound after another, the bulk of which were secured by Carey. But it was the other Mike on Bashir Mason's roster that was responsible for tipping the scales into the hosts' hands, as Mike Aaman converted a JoJo Cooper pass off the glass and in to give Wagner a 57-56 lead it would never relinquish. Back-to-back baskets by Carey ended what ultimately became an 8-2 run that served as the impetus for the Seahawks' game-ending defensive stand as they hit the road for Saturday's clash with St. Francis Brooklyn, owners of a momentum boost that may be a catalyst for greater heights.

"It's extremely positive, and I feel good about it," said Mason of the encouragement a win such as Thursday's victory could provide down the stretch. "I think the last couple of weeks, we've shown ourselves and the league how good we can be. Now, we've just got to remain consistent and not play at that level."

Points per possession - 
Wagner: 1.13 (69 points in 61 possessions)
Mount St. Mary's: 0.97 (65 points in 67 possessions)

Effective field goal percentage: Wagner .509, Mount St. Mary's .448
Free throw rate: Mount St. Mary's 31.0%, Wagner 25%
Offensive rebound percentage: Mount St. Mary's 34.4, Wagner 29.7
Turnover rate: Wagner 14.8%, Mount St. Mary's 16.4%

KEY STAT: Wagner's ball control took on a life of its own as the game went on. The Seahawks committed just nine turnovers on the night against The Mount's vaunted transition defense, but only three of those miscues came after halftime, when Wagner forced eight turnovers on the defensive end. Below is a second-half split of both turnover rates, offensive and defensive:

Offensive turnover rate: 9.7% (three turnovers in 31 possessions)
Defensive turnover rate: 21.6% (eight forced turnovers in 37 possessions)

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