Injuries aside, Dips still grinding out wins
By Mike Gross, Sports Columnist email@example.com
Injuries heal. Defense lasts.
It's looking like Franklin & Marshall's basketball team will never be healthy in 2013. But it can still get down in a man-to-man stance and grind out wins.
The Diplomats held Muhlenberg to 14 field goals and rolled over the Muhls, 68-46 in a Centennial Conference game Saturday at the Mayser Center.
"Obviously, a great defensive effort,'' F&M coach Glenn Robinson said after his club improved to 16-5, 11-3 in the Centennial.
"And those guys [Muhlenberg] can shoot. That's a good team.''
Indeed, the Muhls came in 12-8, 8-5. They have a lighting-quick guard, Malique Killing, who's averaging 20 a game, and a 6-10 guy, Kevin Hargrove, surrounded by a group of 3-point shooters.
But while Killing scored 18, he needed 18 shots. And his teammates shot 7 for 30. For the game, the Muhls shot 29 percent from the field, 20 percent (5 for 25) in the second half, and 2-for-17 from the three.
The 46-point total was, as you might have guessed, Muhlenberg's season low.
It wasn't quite as easy Saturday as the final score sounds. F&M, 13th in the country in rebounding margin, got out-rebounded. Muhlenberg played man, zone and some hybrid stuff defensively, and the Dips never got into a consistent, grind-it-out halfcourt groove.
But the Muhls, like most D-III sides, can't stop a 6-8 wing player who can light up the arc and score a dozen other ways. So Hayk Gyokchyan scored 28, on 9-of-16 shooting, 6-of-9 from the three, 4-of-4 from the line, along with eight rebounds in 36 minutes. That, in essence, was the difference.
F&M has won two straight by a combined 40 points, after a very un-Diplomatic four losses in January.
Part of that, a big part, is that most of the Dips have been hurt at one time or another.
Three of them, senior Kevin Henry, sophomore Xavier Braham and freshman Joe Krong, have missed the entire season. Freshman guard Gordon Rogo returned last week after missing two months. There have been not only the usual ankle and knee sprains but a stress-fractured foot (Rogo), wrist surgery (Henry), three broken teeth (senior forward Brandon Beckford) and a case of "jumper's knee,'' (freshman guard Devin Figueroa).
"It's been by far the worst,'' of Robinson's 41 seasons in injury terms. "I couldn't even pick second place. The number of injuries, the severity of them, the amount of time it took to return … all records.
"I thought we withstood it all amazingly well.''
Then junior big man Ed Early went down, last week, with a bad ankle that had him in street clothes and using a crutch Saturday. His status is week-to-week, Robinson said.
"That was a tough one to take,'' said Robinson. "At the time, he was our best inside scorer. He was a spirit guy, so reliable. It was a devastating thing psychologically.''
Other than that, and the players gone for the year, and the sore ankle soph forward Morgan Lee played 12 minutes on Saturday, the Dips are about as hale as they've been.
In Early's absence, Cedric Moune, a 6-7 freshman from Cameroon, has become a rotation guy. So, lately, has Rogo, a 6-3 guard with potential of whom Robinson said, "Really, it's like November for him.''
So they're battle-tested. That's the theory, at least.
F&M remains tied for the Centennial lead with Dickinson, which blew out Washington on Saturday. Four games remain, all in the league, culminating in a showdown with the Red Devils at Mayser on Feb. 16.
The Dips figure to grab a fife and drum and get on with it.
"I hope we can keep the thing going long enough to get Ed back,'' Robinson said.n