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Men’s basketball split opening weekend

Head coach Casey Stitzel pumps up his team during a timeout. Photo courtesy of MU Athletics.

Millersville’s men’s basketball team opened up their season this past weekend on the road, starting with a game Friday night against Fairmont State and then visiting Notre Dame (OH). 

Brian Markley
Associate Sports Editor

The Marauders were off to a strong start in the first few minutes of the game against Fairmont State. They got off to a quick 21-4 lead and would maintain that lead through a majority of the game, along with forcing six turnovers.

A strategic timeout called by the Falcons hindered the fast-paced Marauders offense, and they struggled to regain that pace.

The Marauders got away from their game, committing 13 fouls in the last 15 minutes of play in the first half, and Fairmont State would make this a game. The Falcons cut the Marauder lead to 14 points at half.

The Marauders continued to find success on the offensive side of the ball, and they gave themselves a 73-59 lead with just under 12 minutes to play. 

Fairmont State then went on an 11-2 run in just two minutes, getting them right back into the game once again. With two Marauders fouling out during Fairmont State’s amazing run, Millersville found themselves short-handed for the remainder of the game, and did it show. 

The Marauders lead was now four, and they were able to put together a couple defensive stops. However, their attempt to drain the clock failed as they were forced to put up two bad shots as the shot clock whined down, giving Fairmont State a chance.

The Falcons would go down the floor and hit a clutch three, making the Marauder lead one. Millersville would go down and drain the shot clock once again, but the result was the same. Fairmont State had the ball with eight seconds to play.

They would put up a three that would miss, but the rebound would be banked in, giving Fairmont State the one-point advantage. Millersville’s last hope was a prayer three, but it wouldn’t go, and the Marauders dropped a game that they should have won. 

The decisions late in the game on the offensive side of the ball felt conservative, and it ultimately led to additional chances for Fairmont State.

Millersville’s strong showing in the first half dwindled in the second half. The Marauders shot 17-34 in the first half from the field, including 5-11 from three. However, in the second half, the Marauders went 10-26 and 4-17 from three. 

Junior guard Khari Williams had a strong Millersville debut, scoring 23 points on 8-17 shooting. Williams also recorded four assists and three steals.

Coach Casey Stitzel was impressed with Williams’ debut.

“Khari is as talented as anyone in our league. He is coming along, trying to learn our system. He is going to be a really good player. He’s exactly what we needed to bring in. We asked a lot of him tonight: score the ball and guard the best player on the other team. He played the whole game but we’d like to get his minutes to 31 or 32. Some of those shots he took late came up a little short because his legs were tired. But when we get the full lineup that won’t effect him as much.”

While it was a tough loss, the Marauders had no time to mope on it. They would have an opportunity to bounce back the next day against Notre Dame (OH).

The Marauders would give themselves a 41-35 lead at the half, but would really up the tempo right out of the break. The Marauders would start the second half on a 10-2 run and would run up their lead to 18 points with 13 minutes left to play. 

Notre Dame would pull within 12 points, but the Marauders’ improved second half offense would see them fend off any attempt at a Notre Dame comeback, making six of their next seven shots for a 13-4 run. This strong run would secure the win for the Marauders. 

Sophomore guard Jaden Faulkner recorded a double-double, scoring 30 points and gathering 11 boards. Sophomore forward Justin Nwosu also recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds of his own. Williams scored 10 points on five shots and added five rebounds.

Millersville recorded 44 rebounds as a team and won the rebound battle on back-to-back nights.

“He did a great job of facilitating and getting angles to score at the rim. When he gets the defender on his hip he is tough to guard. He had some rebounds and put-backs as well. He did a great job shutting down the kid that hurt us in the first half. That was a big step for him to do it on the defensive end,” coach Stitzel said on Faulkner’s performance.

“We talked about a couple things at the half. The biggest thing was getting stops. we were a good defensive team last year, keeping teams in the 50s and low 60s. I wanted to get back to that.

(Notre Dame) shot 32 percent from the field. With our offensive firepower, if we defend and beat teams on the glass like we did today we will be tough to beat. And right now we aren’t close to where we can be offensively,” Stitzel said.

The Marauders make their home debut tonight against Wilmington at Pucillo Gym.