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Men's basketball continues late-season roll with 80-72 road win over Goucher

(Posted February 8, 2009)

TOWSON, Md. -- A frustrating first three months of the season behind them, Juniata College head coach Greg Curley and his Eagle men's basketball squad have got to be enjoying their February.

A freshman-laden Juniata squad that had shown steady improvement throughout January continued to stay ahead of the learning curve on Sunday, winning its third in a row with an 80-72 victory over Goucher College.

After opening the season with just three wins in its first 19 games, Sunday's win kept Juniata within striking distance of a Landmark Conference tournament berth. The Eagles improved to 4-7 in the league and tied with Moravian College for fifth place - just three games behind 7-4 Catholic in fourth place. Juniata finishes up its regular season with three games at home, while the Cardinals are on the road for two of their final three contests with road games at the University of Scranton and Moravian.

Juniata (6-16, 4-7 Landmark) relied on its seniors in Sunday's upending of the Gophers, who had edged the Eagles 55-53 earlier this season in Huntingdon.

Junior Jeff Berkey (Stoystown, Pa./Shanksville-Stonycreek) led a trio of Eagles who scored in double figures with 25 points. Senior David Thompson (Altoona, Pa./Altoona) racked up 17 points, while fellow fourth-year Eric Mueseler added 13 points while dishing out four assists.

The three-point shooting of Berkey and Mueseler proved to be the difference maker, as Goucher outrebounded Juniata 43-37 - with a 14-9 advance on the offensive boards - and nearly matched the Eagles' numbers from the field.

However Juniata was a combined 8-of-19 from three-point range, with Berkey draining four treys and Mueseler adding three more. The Gophers, who rank last in the Landmark Conference in three-point shooting, were just 3-of-15 from beyond the arc. Goucher also struggled at the free-throw line, shooting just 54.8% (17-31) at the stripe to Juniata's 76.2% (16-21).

Berkey was particularly clutch at the charity stripe over the final minute, converting six of seven attempts to cap a late Juniata rally and seal the win.

Holding a slim 72-71 lead with 1:35 remaining, Mueseler expanded the Juniata lead to three points with his layup with 57 seconds remaining. Berkey hit two free throws barely 20 seconds later to push the Eagle advantage to 76-71. After a missed three-point attempt by Goucher's Micah Perry, Berkey hit another pair of foul shots, giving Juniata a three-possession lead at 78-71.

The Gophers' Pat Bailey hit the first of two foul shots to cut the Eagle lead to 78-72, but Berkey connected on another pair at the line in the final seconds.

Juniata held the lead for the final five-and-a-half minutes, after trading the lead with Goucher seven times over the previous 35 minutes of play, with 10 ties.

Goucher (5-15, 3-8 Landmark) was led by Marcus Cotton with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Steve Musenga and Joel Smith chipped in with 14 and 13 points respectively. Miguel Negron handed out four assists for the Gophers.

Juniata returns to Huntingdon for its final three regular season games. The home stand opens on Saturday night when the Eagles host Drew University at 7:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Sports + Recreation Center.

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.