Lions Drop Season Opener 87-80 at Saint Vincent

Photo: The Lions' Jack Kusters goes in for a layup during the second half of Tuesday's game at Saint Vincent College.
Photo: The Lions' Jack Kusters goes in for a layup during the second half of Tuesday's game at Saint Vincent College.

LATROBE, Pa. – Penn State Altoona men's basketball started its 2018-19 schedule on the road Tuesday evening, when the Lions suffered an 87-80 loss to non-conference opponent Saint Vincent College in the Robert S. Carey Student Center.

The Lions (0-1) led at halftime and took that lead into the early stages of the second half, but Saint Vincent (2-0) used a big run midway through the second period to work its way in front.

"I'm very pleased with tonight's effort, coming out against a very solid, well-coached team that already had a game under its belt and was picked in the preseason to win their league. They showed why in the second half," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "With that being said, I feel like it is a game we could have won if we just did the little things better. We missed too many layups and gave up way too many offensive rebounds, and that was the difference in the game."

Jack Kusters (Quakertown, PA/Lansdale Catholic) put up a game-high 27 points for Penn State Altoona. Shevelle Bailey (Titusville, FL/Titusville) added 12 points and tied for the team-high in rebounds with seven, and Shandon Marshall (Brownsville, PA/Brownsville) scored 11 points.

Malcolm Martin (Chicago, IL/Chicago Vocational) chipped in nine points, and Jalen Archie-Davis (Norcross, GA/Norcross) scored eight to go along with six boards and a team-high three assists. Austin Krise (Allport, PA/West Branch) tied for the team-lead in rebounds by grabbing seven boards, and Cameron Gardner-Nicholson (Philadelphia, PA/Boys' Latin Charter) blocked a game-high five shots.

"Strong efforts from some newcomers, as Jack, Shevelle, Malcolm, and Shandon all had solid games," said McGreal. "Jalen played solid defense throughout the game, and Cam protected the paint with five blocks."

Saint Vincent got 15 points from Shemar Bennett and Josh Duda. David Stephen added 14 points for the Bearcats, and Ryan Dutton scored 13.

Trailing 10-9 in the early going, Kusters helped Penn State Altoona grab a 14-10 lead with his jumper at 13:46 and three-pointer at 13:23. Bailey's layup and pair of free throws put the Lions up 18-15 by the 11:10 mark.

Penn State Altoona continued to battle in a tightly-contested first half, finding their way to a halftime lead.

Following a timeout, Archie-Davis connected from three-point range at 7:35 to put the Lions in front 28-27, and Kusters' layup at 6:48 made it 30-27. Later, Archie-Davis converted a three-point play, Marshall sank a foul shot, and Martin made a layup to extend Penn State Altoona's advantage to 40-33 with 1:59 to go in the first half.

A 6-0 run by St. Vincent narrowed the Lions' lead, but Penn State Altoona still managed to go into the locker room up 40-39.

In the second half, the Lions used a layup from Gardner-Nicholson and two free throws by Kuster to stay ahead by one, 44-43, by the 17:49 mark. Another score from Gardner-Nicholson made it 46-45 at 16:56.

But St. Vincent embarked on a 21-7 run over the next four minutes, turning its one-point deficit into a 13-point lead. The Bearcats' run was keyed by the long shot, as the home team got 15 of its 21 points during that stretch via the three-pointer.

Penn State Altoona chipped away at the St. Vincent lead and made a late push to tie the game. Marshall's layup at 5:06 cut the Bearcats' advantage to 76-70, and Martin's bucket at 4:03 made it a five-point game, 78-73. But that proved to be as close as the Lions could cut it, and they went on to lose by seven points.

St. Vincent finished the game with a 50-37 edge in rebounds, including a 23-12 lead on the offensive boards.

"We have to learn from what we did wrong and what we did right, and continue to progress to be the team we know we can be," said McGreal. "We have to continue to stress and get better at the small things first, and if we do that, the big things will take care of themselves."

Next, the Penn State Altoona men's basketball team will travel to Frostburg, Md. this Saturday, November 17 to face Frostburg State University at 8:00 p.m.