Bobcats Rally Past Lions 81-74

Photo (by Omer Sanchez): Sophomore guard Jack Kusters goes in for a layup during Wednesday's loss to Pitt-Greensburg.
Photo (by Omer Sanchez): Sophomore guard Jack Kusters goes in for a layup during Wednesday's loss to Pitt-Greensburg.

ALTOONA, Pa. – Penn State Altoona men's basketball led by 10 points in the second half of Wednesday night's Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference matchup with Pitt-Greensburg in the Adler Auxiliary Gym, but the visiting Bobcats came from behind to defeat the Lions 81-74.

The Lions (2-2, 0-2 AMCC) led by seven points at the intermission, then extended their lead to 10 in the opening minute of the second half. But Pitt-Greensburg (5-1, 3-0 AMCC) outscored Penn State Altoona 46-32 in the second to rally for a win.

"Frustrating night tonight. We played a very good first half of basketball again and did almost everything right to put us in a position to beat a very good Greensburg team," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "But for whatever reason, we just have yet to play 40 minutes of basketball all season. Even in the games we won, we were outscored in the second half."

Jack Kusters (Quakertown, PA/Lansdale Catholic) scored a team-high 16 points for the Lions, while Cameron Gardner-Nicholson (Philadelphia, PA/Boys' Latin Charter) and Andruw Harman (Chesapeake, VA/Great Bridge) each recorded their first double-double of the season. Gardner-Nicholson finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Harman had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Alex McClellan (York, PA/West York), Nate Gillen (Johnstown, PA/Central Cambria), and Robbie Hicks (Rockledge, FL/Rockledge) added eight points apiece.

Pitt-Greensburg got a game-high 25 points from Matt Johnson, while Torian Jenkins scored 14, Cam Seigfreid added 12 points with seven rebounds, and JoJo France finished with 10 points.

With the score tied 12-12 in the first half, Pitt-Greensburg used an 8-2 run to take a 20-14 lead by 11:03, when Johnson's layup gave the Bobcats a six-point advantage. Just under two minutes later, David Runco's three-pointer extended the visitors' lead to 25-18.

But Penn State Altoona outscored Pitt-Greensburg 24-10 through the rest of the first half, securing a seven-point lead by the break.

After Runco's three-pointer, the Lions used a Kusters layup, Hicks trey, and Trey Butterworth (Clarence, PA/Bald Eagle) basket to tie the score 25-25. Free throws by Harman and Gardner-Nicholson put Penn State Altoona up by four, and another triple from Hicks made it 32-25 with 5:53 left in the period.

Pitt-Greensburg worked back to within two points of the Lions' lead on Johnson's bucket at 1:40, but Austin Krise (Allport, PA/West Branch) responded with a layup five seconds later, and Gillen connected on a three-pointer at the buzzer to put Penn State Altoona ahead 42-35.

The Lions netted the first points of the second half, when Kusters hit a three-pointer at 19:39 to put his team ahead by 10 points, 45-35.

Pitt-Greensburg hung around and eventually tied the score 56-56 on Cody Spaid's layup at 11:18, then jumped ahead on a three-pointer from Johnson at 10:53. Penn State Altoona countered by reclaiming the lead and boosting it to four points, 67-63, following layups from Harman and Hicks.

But with the score tied 69-69 later in the period, Jenkins' layup at 1:46 gave Pitt-Greensburg a 71-69 lead, and the Bobcats never trailed the rest of the way. Johnson's layup with 53 seconds left upped Pitt-Greensburg's lead to 75-69, and a pair of foul shots from Seigfreid 17 seconds later kept the difference at six, 77-71.

Penn State Altoona threatened to tie the game when McClellan hit a three-pointer at the 27-second mark, followed by the Lions forcing an overthrow out of bounds on the ensuing inbound pass by Pitt-Greensburg. But a turnover prevented the Lions from having the opportunity to put up a game-tying shot, and the Bobcats tacked on four more points courtesy of Jenkins free throws.

For Penn State Altoona, the game was marked by missed opportunities, particularly during the second half.

"We missed 13 layups for the game and were 2-for-6 from the free throw line in the second half. Because of that, we spent the last few minutes chasing points," said McGreal. "Crucial turnovers down the stretch and Greensburg making their free throws was too much for us to overcome."

Next up, Penn State Altoona men's basketball will continue its four-game homestand this Saturday, December 7, when the Lions will welcome new AMCC opponent Alfred State College to campus for a game starting at 2:00 p.m. in Adler.

"We now have to get ready for a good Alfred State team, as this game becomes almost a must-win at this point if we want to be relevant in our conference," McGreal stated. "We must figure out how to play 40 minutes."