Lions Drop Home Opener 85-74 to Saint Vincent

Photo (by Grace Bell): Penn State Altoona senior Dequan Jackson surveys the floor during Wednesday night's game against Saint Vincent College in the Adler Arena.
Photo (by Grace Bell): Penn State Altoona senior Dequan Jackson surveys the floor during Wednesday night's game against Saint Vincent College in the Adler Arena.

ALTOONA, Pa. - Despite a comeback attempt late in the second half, the Penn State Altoona men's basketball team fell 85-74 to non-conference opponent Saint Vincent College in the Lions' first game of the season in the Adler Arena on Wednesday night.

St. Vincent (1-0) led by as many as 22 points midway through the second half before Penn State Altoona mounted a 16-0 run to get back in the game. But the Lions were unable to complete their comeback, ultimately losing by 11 points.

"I'm really proud of the team's effort tonight. I think that we showed that we have the capability to play with really good teams with a rich history, like St. Vincent," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "St. Vincent had five starting seniors who have played together for four years and won some championships. You could see that, when we start working together, play together defensively, and share the ball offensively, we can play with anybody."

Penn State Altoona (0-1) was led in scoring by Dequan Jackson (Philadelphia, PA/Murrell Dobbins CTE), who put up a game-high 27 points and grabbed five rebounds. Ishimeal Nance (Muscle Shoals, AL/Muscle Shoals) added 20 points, six rebounds, and four assists. Rich Bouknight (Norristown, PA/Norristown) contributed 13 points for the Lions.

Cameron Gardner-Nicholson (Philadelphia, PA/Boys' Latin Charter) secured a team-high nine rebounds, and Tre' Brown (Winchester, VA/John Handley) led all players on the night with eight assists.

St. Vincent got 20 points from Tom Kromka, as well as 12 points and 12 rebounds from Austin Dedert. Matt D'Amico and Coy Patterson, Jr. also finished with 12 points apiece.

Penn State Altoona built an early 6-5 lead just under three minutes into the game. Bouknight's fastbreak score at 19:16 put the Lions on the board, and after two foul shots from Nance, his layup put the home team up by one at 17:17.

St. Vincent pulled ahead and maintained a modest lead until late in the second half, when the Bearcats were able to increase their advantage to double digits. Three straight layups from Kyle Evans, Dedert, and Shemar Bennett gave the visitors a 33-21 lead with 4:33 to play in the first half. D'Amico's three-pointer at 1:09 made it 42-32, a score which would hold up by halftime.

The Bearcats continued to boost their lead for much of the second half. Kromka's tip-in bucket at 17:12 gave his team an 18-point lead, 56-38. Later, three more layups from Kromka set St. Vincent's lead at 19 points, 66-47, before Josh Duda's three-pointer at 12:14 gave the visitors a 22-point advantage, 69-47.

But Penn State Altoona took advantage of a cold spell in the St. Vincent offense to get back into the game, using strong defense to lead to scoring. Over the next five minutes, the Lions embarked on a 16-0 run to narrow their deficit to six points.

Layups from Jackson, a trey from Nance, and a fastbreak score by Aubrey Washington (Jacksonville, FL/University Christian) cut the Bearcats' lead to 69-56 by 9:46. After two Nance free throws and another by Washington, back-to-back transition layups by Jackson made it 69-63 with 7:16 to play.

Nearly three minutes later, Penn State Altoona decreased its deficit to five points, using another layup from Jackson and a foul shot from Nance to make it 71-66 by the 4:19 mark.

But St. Vincent's offense awoke, going on an 8-0 run to reestablish a larger lead. Two consecutive layups from Dedert gave the visitors a 79-66 lead with 2:29 remaining in the game, and the Bearcats exited with a win.

"Tonight was a good test. St. Vincent is a very good team who will probably be one of the best in the Presidents' Athletic Conference this season, but we gave them a scare," said McGreal. "We just didn't make enough plays down the stretch, both offensively and defensively, to finish the deal. Being down by 20-plus points in the second half and getting it down to a two possession game really shows a lot of character by the guys and a belief in our system."

Penn State Altoona men's basketball is back on the court this Friday, November 17 in game two of the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament. That evening, the Lions will face LaGrange College (Ga.) at 8:00 p.m. in the Adler Arena.

Friday's first game of the tournament, which tips off at 6:00 p.m. in Adler, pits Juniata College and Mount Aloysius College against each other.