STEUBENVILLE, Ohio – A strong defensive effort on Wednesday night helped lead the Penn State Altoona men's basketball team to a 78-63 victory over Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent Franciscan University at the Kuzma Court at Finnegan Fieldhouse.
The Lions (13-7, 9-4 AMCC) limited Franciscan to a 38.7 percent field goal success rate and forced 21 turnovers, holding the home team to just 63 points. With tonight's result, Penn State Altoona is already just one win away from matching last season's overall win total of 14.
"Great road win tonight against a very tough and resilient Franciscan team. We were able to shut down their offense for most of the night, which was key, because our offense was a little sluggish at times," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "Other than allowing too many offensive rebounds, I thought our defense was solid. We have to continue to improve in our half-court offense if we want to be a complete team."
Ishimeal Nance (Muscle Shoals, AL/Muscle Shoals) led Penn State Altoona in points, rebounds, and assists, finishing the evening with 21 points, nine boards, and three helpers. Rich Bouknight (Norristown, PA/Norristown) added 14 points, Jalen Archie-Davis (Norcross, GA/Norcross) scored 11 points, and Dequan Jackson (Philadelphia, PA/Murrell Dobbins) chipped in 10 points to go with seven rebounds. Cameron Gardner-Nicholson (Philadelphia, PA/Boys' Latin Charter) blocked a game-high three shots.
Franciscan (4-16, 3-10 AMCC) was led by Matt Trent's 20-point, 14-rebound performance, and the Barons also got 10 points from Sean Hickey.
Franciscan hung around for much of the first half, until Penn State Altoona grabbed a lead late in the period and widened the gap before the intermission.
The Barons used a jumper and free throw from Joe Schriner at 13:54 to take a 13-11 advantage, and Trent's layup thirty seconds later made it 15-11. Hickey's three-pointer at 9:03 gave Franciscan a 20-18 edge, and another bucket from Trent tied the score 22-22 at 5:24.
But Penn State Altoona used a 13-2 run over the remainder of the half to stake out a double-digit lead by the game's midpoint. Nance got things started with four free throws, and after a Gardner-Nicholson layup, he converted on a three-point play at 2:41 to put the Lions up 31-22. Archie-Davis followed with a basket shortly thereafter to increase his team's lead to 11 points, and an Austin Krise (Allport, PA/West Branch) layup with 34 seconds left in the period set the halftime score, 35-24.
The Lions bolstered their lead throughout the second half. Three-pointers from Bouknight and Jackson early in the half upped Penn State Altoona's lead to 15 points, 43-28, by the 16:48 mark. Later, baskets from Archie-Davis, Bouknight, and Jackson helped grow the Penn State Altoona lead to 17 points, 62-45, with 6:55 to go. The Lions went on to lead by as many as 18 points, cruising to the important conference win.
"I can't be happier with where we are as a team. 13 wins already, and sitting in third in the conference – it's been a fun ride so far, and hopefully we can keep it going," said McGreal. "We have a big game at home on Saturday, as we have to prepare for a D'Youville team that will be looking to get us back."
Lions basketball hosts AMCC opponent D'Youville College this Saturday, February 3 at 1:00 p.m. in the Adler Arena. The two teams met just this past Sunday afternoon, with Penn State Altoona earning a 91-63 win in Buffalo.
Saturday's contest is also Penn State Altoona's Military and First Responder Appreciation Game. Local members of the military, veterans, and first responders will be recognized as part of the festivities.