ALTOONA, Pa. – It was an historic night for the Penn State Altoona men's basketball team's offense, which led the way Wednesday in a 112-84 victory over Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent Pitt-Bradford in the Adler Arena.
Penn State Altoona (2-6, 1-2 AMCC) shot 64.7% (44-for-68) from the field, setting a new team record for the highest field goal percentage in a single game. The Lions also produced the second-most assists (29) in a game in team history, the third-highest point total (112), and tied for the third-most field goals made (44).
The win snapped a four-game skid for the Lions, who secured their first AMCC victory of the season.
"I'm really, really happy about getting the monkey off our back, ending the short losing streak, and getting back on the winning side," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "It really helps a lot when you shoot it the way we did tonight. We were able to finally get into a groove offensively. Guys were making shots that I know they're capable of making, but they haven't been making them in the previous run of games."
The Lions' offense was led by Cameron Gardner-Nicholson (Philadelphia, PA/Boys' Latin Charter), who scored a career-high and game-high 23 points. He also led all players on the night with 13 rebounds to record his fourth double-double of the season, and he blocked a game-high six shots. That total of six blocks ties Gardner-Nicholson's career-high, and it also represents the second-most blocks in a game in Lions history.
Jalen Archie-Davis (Norcross, GA/Norcross) scored 20 points, the highest point total of his Penn State Altoona career. He also set a new Lions single game record for field goal percentage by an individual player, as he went 9-for-9 from the floor to post a perfect 100.0% field goal rate.
Jack Kusters (Quakertown, PA/Lansdale Catholic) scored 21 points for the Lions, including going 4-for-5 from three-point range. He also led the team with five steals and chipped in five assists. Shevelle Bailey (Titusville, FL/Titusville) added 16 points, five rebounds, and a game-high nine assists, and Y'shua Bragg (Pittsburgh, PA/Carrick) finished with 10 points.
"Hats off to Cam, who had a monster night. We knew we had a size advantage, we knew we wanted to look to him exclusively, and he didn't disappoint. Y'shua, with his size advantage, was also able to make things happen in his limited minutes, as well," said McGreal. "Jack, Jalen, and Shevelle all came out and played very well and very aggressively offensively, which is what we were trying to do. When we're able to control the tempo, push the ball, score in transition, score off turnovers, and score in our secondary offense, we're able to put up points."
Pitt-Bradford (1-5, 0-3 AMCC) was led in scoring by Dylan Mitchell, who finished with 21 points. Jeffrey Fry added 14 points, and Reginald Rogers and Ugwunna Amadi scored 11 points each.
Penn State Altoona set the tone early with a stellar first half, shooting 70.0% (21-for-30) from the field while holding Pitt-Bradford to a 10-for-30 performance from the floor.
Bailey's fastbreak dunk off the opening tip and Kusters' three-pointer at 19:28 gave the home team a 5-0 advantage, and Gardner-Nicholson's slam at 18:25 made it 7-2. Later, a pair of baskets from both Gardner-Nicholson and Archie-Davis, along with a Shandon Marshall (Brownsville, PA/Brownsville) jumper, extended Penn State Altoona's lead to 21-8 by 12:21.
Pitt-Bradford closed the gap to five when Fry's three-pointer at 10:08 narrowed the Lions' lead to 25-20, but Kusters answered with a three-pointer on his team's next possession to make it 28-20. Three more buckets by Archie-Davis, plus layups from Bailey and Gardner-Nicholson, upped Penn State Altoona's lead to 38-24 by 6:10.
Bragg and Archie-Davis each connected from three-point range to make it 46-28 by the 3:57 mark. Bragg's layup, along with Marshall converting a three-point play, helped Penn State Altoona get to halftime leading 54-40.
A 58-44 performance in the second half helped Penn State Altoona open the game up.
After Archie-Davis started the second period with a layup on his team's first possession, Gardner-Nicholson scored layups on three consecutive possessions to increase the Lions' lead to 62-42. Kusters followed with a three-point play at 17:56, making the layup and foul shot to give his team a 65-42 advantage.
Layups from Austin Krise (Allport, PA/West Branch) and Gardner-Nicholson preceded Archie-Davis' basket and foul shot at 15:45 that made it 72-48. Bragg's score at 15:12 made it a 26-point game.
Later in the period, Kusters scored on consecutive possessions to increase the Lions' advantage to 28 points, connecting from beyond the arc and making a layup to make it 94-66 at 5:43. Danny Browne's (Downingtown, PA/Bishop Shanahan) layup at 4:09 increased the lead to 98-68, and Gardner-Nicholson's three-point play at 3:33 broke the century mark, upping Penn State Altoona's advantage to 101-68. Back-to-back three-pointers from Nate Gillen (Johnstown, PA/Central Cambria) gave Penn State Altoona its largest lead of the game, 107-70.
The Lions finished the game with big statistical advantages over Pitt-Bradford in several categories, including leading 43-32 in rebounds, 29-14 in assists, 58-44 in points in the paint, and 20-11 in fastbreak points.
Next, Penn State Altoona will turn its attention to a big road contest at AMCC opponent Penn State Behrend this Saturday, December 8. That game is scheduled to tip off at 8:00 p.m. in Erie.
"Hopefully this will carry over and give us some motivation leading into the weekend against arguably one of the best teams in the league, playing at a place where we haven't had much success ever," said McGreal. "Either way, I'm happy about our performance tonight, and hopefully this can catapult us into playing better from here on out."