The College of Mount Saint Vincent came into last Thursday’s game against Yeshiva with wins in nine of its past 10 games, owning the top spot in the Skyline Conference standings.
By the time Yeshiva left, however, The Mount was no longer living in the conference penthouse.
The Dolphins fought their way almost all the way back from a 22-point halftime deficit only to see Raiquis Harris’ three-point shot at the buzzer go in — and then out — as Yeshiva held on for a 78-75 victory at The Mount.
Despite the loss, Dolphins head coach James Mooney said his team showed a never-say-die attitude in the comeback attempt.
“There is no such thing as moral victories, but the way we fought back just shows the grit of our team,” Mooney said.
“We knew that, but I feel like we’re too good of a team to have the first half that we had, and now have to battle back from a 20-point lead. We were down 20 with about nine minutes to go, so yes, you can take away some positives. But if we’re trying to build and we’re truly the first-place team, you can’t let that happen.”
Mooney was referencing the Dolphins’ impressive 11-4 conference record, which now puts them in second place in the conference. Yeshiva now stands at 9-6 while riding a five-game win streak.
“I’m hoping that it’s a learning experience, we will definitely watch the film,” Mooney said. “We fought, and as a coach that’s all that you can really ask for. But if we’re trying to get to that next level and be a championship team, we can’t just depend on fight. We have to execute, defend, and stick to the game plan.”
Execution certainly came in the second half for the Dolphins, trying to counter Yeshiva’s remarkable 70 percent completion from behind the three-point arc in the first half that originally built a 54-32 lead at intermission.
“We basically said, ‘OK guys, you have to own your man and not let anything up,’” Mooney said. “When we start to really grind and say, ‘OK, this is my man, he’s not going to score,’ we limited (Yeshiva) in the second half.”
Yeshiva shot just 34 percent in the second half, converting just three three-point attempts.
On the other side, the Dolphins knocked down shots at a 50 percent clip, including a crucial 76 percent at the charity stripe.
The Dolphins’ strong comeback was led by forward Andrew Curiel, a senior who tallied 17 points, most of them coming in the final minutes.
“The challenge that I have for (Curiel) is how does he make (his playing style) contagious?” Mooney said. “How does his effort and his heart rub off to the other guys on the court?”
Jose Maestre, the Dolphins’ senior guard, said his team lacked energy in the first half.
“We were flat,” he said. “We didn’t hit our shots. We just sulked and put our heads down, and that’s not who we are. There is no reason to lack effort, and that’s what we were lacking.”
Like Mooney, Maestre knows lessons can be learned from the loss.
“It’s just one game,” Maestre said. “Just like if we had won, we learn from this and we move on. In the second half we had fight, in the first half we had no fight. If we don’t dig ourselves that hole, it’s a completely different game.”
The Dolphins rebounded from the loss to Yeshiva with a 72-54 victory over St. Joseph’s Long Island. Ammad Alkhulaidi scored 21 points and Mike Mulligan added 16 as the Mount improved to 14-7 overall, 12-4 in the Skyline — a half-game behind first-place Farmingdale.
But the Dolphins are still not at full strength as senior forward Matthew Sowah is still sidelined with a concussion.
“I’m day-to-day right now, but I was practicing last week,” Sowah said. “I’ll be sidelined for a few more days, and we’ll see where it goes from there.”