Men’s basketball triumphs over Wabash

Gators battle to 12-point victory over favored Little Giants

Emily Rice
Allegheny’s Jordan Rawls, ‘20, leaps in the tip-off during the game against Wabash in the David V. Wise Center’s
James H. Mullen Jr. Arena Feb. 1, 2019. The final score was 80-68, Gator victory.

When Allegheny Men’s Basketball Head Coach Bob Simmons addressed visiting trustees ahead of the Gator’s Feb. 1 game against the Wabash Little Giants, he was frank about the challenge of facing a team ranked 14 in the nation for Division III men’s basketball. As far as he was concerned, he said, the Gators were No. 1.

The Gators ranked 209 in the nation in the same ranking as of Jan. 9, 2019. This 195-place difference did not prevent the Gators from securing a 12-point victory over the Little Giants at a home white-out game in the newly dedicated James H. Mullen Jr. Arena in the David V. Wise Center.

“I’m proud of our guys every single day, every single night, win or lose, because as a coach, there’s only two things you can really ask of the people you lead and that’s be coachable and give a hundred percent,” Simmons said. “That night I was very happy for them because not only were they coachable and did they give a hundred percent, but they beat a very good team in front of a sold-out crowd. To beat the number 14 team in the country is pretty special.”

The 80-68 win contributed to the Gators’ to an 8-12 overall record and a 4-10 conference record.

In order to prepare, according to Simmons, the Gators focused on defensive strategy and their goal of staying close to Wabash’s high-scoring shooters. The Gators focused specifically on preventing the Little Giants from making three-point shots.

Allegheny held Wabash to decreases in their shooting statistics — Wabash’s 48 percent shooting average from the field dropped to 36 percent, and a 38 percent average from the three-point line dropped to 20 percent against the Gators.

“We held them to considerably under their averages,” Simmons said. “I thought our attention to detail, our focus on the game plan really solidified it.”

Emily Rice
The Gators gather in a pre-game huddle before facing Wabash in the David V. Wise
Center’s James H. Mullen Jr. Arena Feb. 1, 2019.

Guard Brian Roberts, ’22, attributed the exciting win to that game plan.

“If we play defense, that’s the main thing,” Roberts said. He said that “the preparation from our coaches and the schedule that they had down for us so we could execute it properly” was key to securing victory.

On the offensive side, Jordan Rawls, ’20, scored a team-best 22 points and was later named the NCAC Athlete of the Week. He was followed closely by Brian Roberts’s 20 points. The Gators scored the bulk of their points in the second half, trailing Wabash 37-32 at halftime before surging ahead with another 48 points in the second half.

Guard Jordan Greynolds, ’22, credited the unique environment of the Feb. 1 home game, which combined the matchup with the surprise announcement of the renaming of the Gators’ home court in the Wise Center after Allegheny College President James Mullen.

The newly named James H. Mullen Jr. Arena was host to over 600 students, parents and other members of the Allegheny community. Many wore T-shirts that read “Jim’s Gym.”

“It was definitely the most packed game we’ve had this year,” Greynolds said. “The crowd definitely played a big factor in that game for us. I was glad it was our sporting event that got to be part of that.”

The opening of the game revealed the new arena name with a new scoring table. Mullen was also honored with a plaque to mark the spot where he has stood to watch sporting events — numerous sporting events, according to Greynolds.

“He comes to every sporting event, all of it,” Greynolds said.

The environment created by the athletic department and campus community honoring Mullen’s commitment made the win especially meaningful for Roberts.

“It was a very exciting game for us, especially seeing that the arena was basically sold out, which we really haven’t seen this season,” Roberts said. “So to win a game like that, in that type of atmosphere, in the new gym for President Mullen, it was a great feeling.”

The reaction of spectators and athletes alike testified to just how special that moment was, Simmons said.

“I think you saw that after the game when the horn sounded, and the students rushed the court, and our guys celebrating,” Simmons said. “To get that first win in ‘Jim’s Gym,’ I know it meant a lot to him, but it meant a lot to us to make sure that that night went the right way for him.”

Simmons also acknowledged the community that came together to make the night special in multiple ways, crediting the offices who coordinated the event and the students who created the kind of arena that is a “fantastic basketball environment.”

That “fantastic environment” is one of the elements of the Wabash game Simmons hopes to see throughout the rest of the season.

“It was special, and that’s how I hope all the games are,” Simmons said. “Our team is fun to watch.”

Roberts said he and his teammates are hoping to make the season particularly special by achieving a goal they’ve had in mind for months.

“I just hope we can continue this momentum we’ve got right now to try to get us in the playoffs,” Roberts said. “We’re currently the eighth seed, and it’s the top eight teams, so we’ve just got to get through this final push.”

Roberts is confident in his team’s ability to carry the momentum from the Wabash game into the “final push.”

“I feel like we can beat everybody,” Roberts said.