MANHATTAN, N.Y. – Ishimeal Nance's (Muscle Shoals, AL/Muscle Shoals) 30-point, 11-rebound effort propelled the Penn State Altoona men's basketball team to an 81-77 victory over non-conference opponent New York University on Saturday evening at the Sportsplex.
Coming off of a 13-day layoff, the Lions (7-4) used a strong first half to jump out to a lead, then fended off the Violets' second half charge to grab their fourth non-conference victory of the 2017-18 season.
"It's a great day to be a Penn State Altoona Lion. This was a really big win for our men's basketball program," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "I'm just so proud of these guys for pulling this one out against NYU, who's a top notch NCAA Division III institution that plays in a very prestigious conference, the University Athletic Association."
Nance led Penn State Altoona with this third double-double of the season, leading all scorers on the night with 30 points and securing a team-high 11 rebounds. Dequan Jackson (Philadelphia, PA/Murrell Dobbins) added 21 points and six rebounds, and Aubrey Washington II (Jacksonville, FL/University Christian) scored 10 points. Tre' Brown (Winchester, VA/John Handley) and Jalen Archie-Davis (Norcross, GA/Norcross) each dished out five assists, tying for the team lead.
NYU (6-3) got 17 points and 13 rebounds from Dom Cristiano to go along with 16 points from Ross Udine.
Penn State Altoona posted a solid first half all-around, shooting 64.3% from the field on offense while forcing NYU into committing 10 turnovers on the other end of the court. That performance helped the Lions to a 47-35 lead by halftime.
"I thought we played a tremendous defensive first half. We were able to turn them over and get some easy baskets," said McGreal. "Ishimeal played like an All-American in the first half. He was rebounding, making shots, and just putting the team on his back. He got us out to a great start."
Layups from Cameron Gardner-Nicholson (Philadelphia, PA/Boys' Latin Charter) and Jackson accounted for the first points of the game for Penn State Altoona, and Rich Bouknight (Norristown, PA/Norristown) connected from three-point range at 17:14 to put the Lions up 7-2.
After Udine's layup tied the game 11-11 at 13:52, Penn State Altoona embarked on a 14-5 run. Archie-Davis' jumper broke the tie, and Jackson and Nance each made three shots during that span, including Nance's fastbreak dunk that capped the run at the 8:36 mark and put the visitors ahead by nine, 25-16.
Jackson's three-point play, a transition layup and foul shot, with 1:50 left in the first half kept the Lions up by seven points, 40-33. Nance and Washington each hit three-pointers within the final eight seconds of the period, and Penn State Altoona went into the intermission up by 12 points.
Penn State Altoona maintained its double-digit lead early in the second half. The Lions' first three baskets of the period came courtesy of Nance, including another dunk at the 18:01 mark. Jackson's layup at 16:26 gave his team a 55-41 lead, and Nance's three-point play at 14:55 made it 58-45. Nance connected from beyond the arc at 11:05, and he threw down another slam at 8:45 to keep Penn State Altoona on top by 13 points, 67-54.
But NYU made its move at that point, going on a 23-10 run to tie the game with less than one minute to play. Ethan Feldman's layup and Jule Brown's trey cut the Lions' lead to eight, 67-59, with eight minutes to go. Buckets from Jimmy Martinelli and Cristiano made it 69-65 by 5:33, and foul shots from Cristiano and Douglas Gertner closed the gap to 77-74 with 2:19 left. Udine hit from three-point range with 56 seconds remaining to knot the score at 77.
But Penn State Altoona made the necessary plays to tip the balance of the game in its favor. In the next possession, an offensive rebound by Jackson led to him hitting the go-ahead free throws with 32 seconds left. After the Lions' defense held NYU without a basket in its next possession, Archie-Davis sank two more foul shots to give his team an 81-77 advantage with 13 seconds on the clock.
"In the second half, we continued to put a lot of defensive pressure on them. But the biggest thing we did was that we were able to take their best shot," said McGreal. "They made a huge run and tied the game with a big three by their point guard, Udine. But we made plays down the stretch and made clutch free throws. DJ and Jalen, who have both struggled at the line, stepped up and knocked down four clutch free throws to get us the win."
Penn State Altoona held a 50-40 scoring edge for points in the paint over NYU, and the Lions also posted an 18-8 advantage in fastbreak points.
"I was very pleased with the support we had tonight," added McGreal. "We had a great turnout of fans in the Big Apple. It was nice to be able to end 2017 with a huge win for our program."
Lions basketball returns to action this upcoming Wednesday, January 3, when they host Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent Pitt-Bradford for a 5:00 p.m. contest in the Adler Arena.