ALLENTOWN, Pa. – A return to its long-range potency has the Ursinus College men's basketball team returning to the postseason.
Junior Eric Williams Jr. piled up a game-high 27 points and knocked down half of the squad's 12 3-pointers as the Bears clinched a Centennial Conference playoff berth for the second straight year with an entertaining 100-85 victory at Muhlenberg on Wednesday night. Ursinus (15-9, 11-6) will take on Dickinson in the first-round contest next Tuesday and can ensure that the game will be played at home with a victory over Gettysburg in Saturday's regular-season finale.
A shootout with high-scoring Muhlenberg was the perfect tonic for an Ursinus squad that had lost four of its previous five games and shot dismally from the field (33.6 percent) and 3-point line (31.4 percent) in back-to-back losses to fellow playoff teams Swarthmore and Dickinson. This time, the offensive firepower was on full display, and the numbers were staggering.
The Bears made 58.5 percent of their shots (38 for 65) and went a sizzling 12 for 21 (57.1 percent) from beyond the arc. Ursinus hit at least ten treys in three of its first four games this season, but had hit that number just four times in the previous 19 contests since, and Wednesday's percentage was the second-best marksmanship of the season. Ursinus put five players in double figures, scored 50 points in each half, and out-rebounded the Mules, 40-26. More impressively, the Bears came away from Memorial Hall with a double-digit victory over a Muhlenberg squad that needed a win to keep its playoff hopes alive and had already defeated nationally ranked Swarthmore and Franklin & Marshall there earlier this season.
Despite shooting 64.0 percent from the floor in the first half, Ursinus went into the locker room nursing a slim 50-47 advantage thanks to a 54.1-percent output from the Mules on Senior Night. The advantage remained there at 61-58 after a basket by Owen McLeod (26 points) with 15:22 to play, when junior co-captain Matt Williams delivered back-to-back enormous buckets.
First, a short jumper off an offensive rebound went down for Williams, and then came a 3-pointer on the next trip that stretched the lead to eight. Williams then assisted on a lay-up by freshman Bruce Edwards, which opened up a double-digit spread (68-58) at the 12:45 mark.
After senior Zach Quattro restored a 10-point lead at 70-60, Eric Williams and sophomore Shane Stark combined to score the next 15 points for Ursinus, which led by as many as 21 points late in the second stanza.
Eric Williams finished 9 for 14 from the field and 6 of 10 from 3-point range in another long-distance assault on a Muhlenberg program he seems to relish facing. The sharpshooter has made 25 treys in five career games against the Mules, including nine in a triple-overtime epic in Allentown last year.
Stark, meanwhile, made eight of his 11 attempts from the field en route to matching a season high with 16 points. He grabbed 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the year and also racked up four assists and three steals. Quattro was 7 for 14 from the floor.
Senior Remi Janicot (10 points) made all six of his free throws and Matt Williams (nine points, six rebounds) was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field in a pair of impressive efforts off the bench. Senior Brian Rafferty handed out seven assists.
Ursinus has now made the CC playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since a 10-year run from 1999-2008. The Bears can lock up the number four seed and a home game with a win against Gettysburg, or a Dickinson loss at Washington College. Tip-off for Saturday's Senior Day showdown is set for 3 p.m.