DALLAS — The fans came prepared. Holding up a sign that counted up to Matt Greene’s 1,000th career point, the crowd at the Anderson Center was ready for a celebration.
The Cougars’ senior point guard hit the milestone as Misericordia buried Wilkes in the second half of a 72-61 win on Thursday night.
“It was exactly how I expected it to go,” Greene said with a smile. “My whole family was here, and that’s what meant the most. It didn’t matter who else was here in the gym.
“Having them in the gym was all I needed.”
Junior Steve Ware led the way with an impressive double-double, leading all players with 27 points and 12 rebounds. He helped the Cougars (12-8, 6-3 Freedom) take control of the game late in the first half.
Greene nearly brought down the house in the final seconds of the first, missing a desperation three-pointer that would have given him 1,000 on the nose.
He didn’t waste time getting there after the break as the first bucket of the second half was a picture-perfect three that triggered a party in the stands from a small legion of friends and family in attendance.
“Had to be (on a three-pointer),” Greene laughed. “I told Coach there was no other way. I think I only had nine or 10 twos coming into the game, so it had to be a three. Only made sense.”
Two more signs popped up congratulating the Lehigh Valley native and even a handful of gold “1,000” T-shirts appeared.
When things calmed down and Wilkes made a charge, it was Ware who got the home crowd back on their feet with a two-handed slam off of a steal, his second dunk of the night.
The Colonels (7-12, 2-7) had pulled within nine midway through the second half after the Cougars rushed some possessions, leading to a 7-0 Wilkes run.
Misericordia responded with seven straight of its own to rebuild a comfortable double-digit lead.
For Trevor Woodruff, it was an encouraging sign after watching his team fall flat in a home loss to FDU-Florham last Saturday.
“I thought we just coasted a little bit (Saturday),” Woodruff said. “I didn’t see a great physical output from our guys. They kind of just went through the motions. We were really disappointed.
“But we watched the film, the kids saw it, and tonight it was much better just from a toughness, physical, aggressiveness standpoint.”
With the win, Misericordia climbed right back into the battle royale for the top seed in the Freedom Conference. The Cougars are tied with three other teams for first with five games left on the league schedule.
Greene finished with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including four three-pointers. Erik Kerns added 11 points while Joe Busacca had 10.
Sophomores Alec Wizar (22 points, six rebounds) and Steve Stravinski (20 and seven) again led the Wilkes attack.
A number that especially bothered the Colonels was the 14 turnovers, many of them unforced.
“There were some guys that stepped out of their roles and left their two-or-three-dribble rule that we had for them,” Wilkes coach Jerry Rickrode said. “Mainly post players. Threw the ball away against the zone.
“Obviously Alec and Steve played great. They don’t just lead us in points, they lead us in rebounds at the guard spots. But that really can’t happen for you to win.”
WILKES (61) — Alec Wizar 8-14, 0-0 22, Devin Dunn 0-2 0-0 0, Steve Stravinski 5-11 5-5 20, Jimmy Brackett 2-3 1-2 5, Brendan Sheldon 0-1 2-2 2, Tyler Jackson 1-4 0-0 2, Jeremy Hartman 0-1 0-2 0, Pat Furst 2-5 0-1 4, Nic Wilkins 3-5 0-0 6, Lee Strause 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-46 8-12 61.
MISERICORDIA (72) — Joe Busacca 2-9 6-9 10, Matt Greene 5-10 2-2 16, Griffin Sponaugle 0-5 0-0 0, Steve Ware 9-15 9-10 27, Erik Kerns 3-7 5-6 11, Michael Brunson 0-0 0-0 0, Anthony Sergio 1-3 0-0 3, Patrick Widdoss 0-2 0-0 0, John Murphy 0-0 0-0 0, Jamie Egan 0-0 0-0 0, Cael Evans 2-3 1-2 5. Totals 22-54 23-29 72.
Halftime — Misericordia, 40-33
Three-point field goals — WU 11-21 (Wizar 6-9, Stravinski 5-10, Jackson 0-1, Furst 0-1); MU 5-14 (Greene 4-9, Sergio 1-2, Sponaugle 0-3)