COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – Senior Eric Williams Jr. had a night to remember as he buried 10 3-pointers to set the Centennial Conference all-time mark for triples in a career. Williams' monster night led the Ursinus men's basketball team to an 81-78 victory over Muhlenberg at Helfferich Hall.
Williams showed unlimited range and could not be contained from beyond the arc. The lethal shooter buried 10 treys on 16 attempts for 30 points to lift his career total to 312, passing Ursinus legend Dennis Stanton (306) for the school record and former Franklin & Marshall standout Brandon Federici (309) for the conference record.
Williams and the sharp-shooting Bears, who rank just outside the top 10 in Division III in 3-point field goal percentage, nailed an incredible 14 triples on the night on 32 shots (43.8%). Williams dropped in seven 3-pointers for 21 points in the first half alone to help the hosts jump out to a 15-point lead (46-31) at halftime, which proved just enough to keep the Mules from coming back late.
Ursinus (15-9, 12-5) held on in the late stages of the game to lock up the third seed in the Centennial Conference playoffs. A Swarthmore win over McDaniel or a Johns Hopkins loss would pit the Bears against the Blue Jays in next Friday's semifinals.
Muhlenberg (12-12, 9-8), in the midst of a battle for the last playoff spot in the league, gave a fight down to the wire. The Mules shot 57.6 percent from the field and 7-of-15 (46.7%) from beyond the arc in the second half, allowing them to challenge the Bears late. Muhlenberg went on to outscore Ursinus 47-35 in the second half.
Michael Morreale got a shot to go to cut the Bears' lead to 79-76 with less than two minutes to play. After a defensive stop, Matt Gnias' potential game-tying 3-pointer was halfway down the cylinder before spinning out. The Mules grabbed the offensive rebound then swung the ball around, but senior Zack Muredda came up with a big steal. The senior finished with eight points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Dan Gaines missed a layup with 29 seconds to play to try to cut the game to one point, and junior Ryan McTamney made a pair of free throws to push the lead to five points (81-76) with 26 seconds remaining. McTamney scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds.
Morreale put back an offensive rebound to get within 81-78 with 15 ticks left. Muredda missed the front end of a one-and-one, then Morreale missed a 3-pointer on the other end but corralled the carom. After a Muhlenberg timeout, Gnias took a pass in the paint and sprinted to the 3-point line to launch a fall-away that nearly went down. Gnias led the Mules with 23 points.
The game started in a fast-paced manner. Williams made a corner triple as the shot clock was close to expiring to push the Bears to a 10-point lead at 23-13 about nine minutes in. Williams drained his fifth 3-pointer to set the school record with 2:34 left in the first half. It helped the Bears build a 11-point lead.
Two minutes into the second half, Williams eclipsed the conference record with his eighth deep ball of the game.
Freshman Ryan Hughes scored 14 points and added eight rebounds and four assists.
Gaines and Nate Henty Brown had double-figure nights with 14 and 11 points, respectively, for the Mules.
Ursinus went 29-of-61 (47.5%) from the field and 9-of-11 (81.8%) from the free throw line.
Muhlenberg shot a tad higher at 30-of-61 (49.2%) overall. The Mules went 10-of-25 (40%) from beyond the arc and 8-of-10 (80%) from the charity stripe.
The Bears wrap up the regular season with their Senior Day game against Franklin & Marshall on Saturday at 1 p.m. Ursinus will honor seniors Williams Jr., Muredda and Matt Williams before the game.