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Lions Suffer 86-66 Defeat at La Roche

Lions Suffer 86-66 Defeat at La Roche


2/11/2017 — PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Penn State Altoona men's basketball saw its three-game winning streak snapped on Saturday afternoon, when the Lions lost 86-66 to Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent La Roche College in the Kerr Fitness Center.

"Tonight, we ran into a buzzsaw. La Roche was coming off of back-to-back losses, it was their senior night, and their coach and best player [Ray Quan Phifer] were unable to coach and play in their last game, so they were ready to play tonight," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "They showed tonight, in my opinion, why they are one of the best teams in the league."

Penn State Altoona's (12-11, 11-5 AMCC) Javon Wilson (Washington, D.C./T.C. Williams) tied for the game-high in points with 19, and he also finished with four rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Jordan Smith (Pittsburgh, PA/Taylor Allderdice) added 14 points, nine boards, and two steals. Ishimeal Nance (Muscle Shoals, AL/Muscle Shoals/Snead State C.C.) contributed 13 points, seven rebounds, and four steals.

La Roche (16-7, 12-4 AMCC) got 19 points from Evan Bonnaure, 17 and nine rebounds from Trell Thomas, and 16 points from Ray Quan Phifer.

The Redhawks were able to maintain a modest lead throughout the entire first half, despite Penn State Altoona continuously chipping away at its deficit to keep the difference close. But the Lions shot just 34.5% from the field in the first half, and they were unable to improve much on that in the second half, when they shot 36.8%. Meanwhile, La Roche shot 38.2% in the first half, then made 55.2% of their field goal tries in the second period.

"We played pretty well in the first half, and we did OK defensively. Our issue tonight was just not being able to make shots," said McGreal. "If you look at the shooting percentages, it's pretty easy to see that was our main issue."

Nance's fastbreak layup at 17:59 cut La Roche's lead to 5-4 early in the first half, but the Redhawks embarked on a 15-6 run to grab a 20-10 advantage by 12:58. Thomas' three-pointer at 16:06 made it 12-5, and Bonnaure followed with a layup at 15:49 that made it a nine-point game, 14-5. Jumpers from Thomas, Darius Lawrence, and Arnes Bajgora upped the home squad's lead to 20-10.

Penn State Altoona was able to keep things from getting out of hand, however. Nance's transition bucket at 6:18 cut La Roche's lead to six, 25-19. Two Wilson free throws and a jump shot by Tay Charles (Chambersburg, PA/Chambersburg) kept the difference at six, 29-23, with 4:42 left in the half. Nance's dunk at 3:05 made it 32-27, and Wilson's three-pointer and Smith's foul shot whittled the Lions' deficit to three 34-31, with 1:55 left.

Holding a halftime lead of 37-31, La Roche opened the second half with a 15-4 run to go up by 17 points. Baskets from Phifer and Bajgora started the scoring, and Zach Gould added two free throws and a layup shortly thereafter. Two more buckets from Phifer and a three-pointer by Bonnaure put the Redhawks ahead 52-35 by 15:50.

La Roche held a double-digit lead throughout the remainder of the game. Penn State Altoona was able to close the gap to 10 points twice, but the Lions could not make up any more ground on the scoreboard.

The Lions tied La Roche in points in the paint (36-36) while holding advantages in second chance points (15-13) and fastbreak points (14-8). Penn State Altoona won the turnover battle, forcing 20 La Roche turnovers and getting 10 steals while committing 16 turnovers themselves.

"Though we did well defensively, forcing 20 turnovers and having 10 steals, we just weren't converting on the offensive end," said McGreal. "I told the guys that in no way should this derail our momentum. We're looking forward to Senior Night on Wednesday, getting back in the win column, and securing our 12th conference win. After that, we'll see what happens at Behrend on Saturday."

Penn State Altoona men's basketball returns to the Adler Gym for its final regular season home game this Wednesday, February 15 against AMCC opponent Pitt-Bradford. Tipoff for that game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., and there will be a pregame Senior Night ceremony to honor the Lions' five senior players.

The Lions finish their regular season schedule on Saturday, February 18 with a 3:00 p.m. game at Penn State Behrend.

Photo: Penn State Altoona senior guard Javon Wilson tied for the game-high in points on Saturday at La Roche College with 19.

TAGS: men's basketball