ERIE, Pa. -- Penn State Altoona men's basketball suffered a tough loss on Saturday afternoon, falling 67-66 to Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent Penn State Behrend at the Junker Center.
Penn State Altoona (9-6, 5-3 AMCC) overcame an 11-point first half deficit and held a modest lead midway through the second half. But Behrend worked back on top late in the game to pull out the one-point victory.
"Very disappointed with the outcome and not being able to pull out a crucial road victory against the first place team in the AMCC. But I'm very proud of our team's effort, especially defensively in slowing down Behrend's usually high-powered offense," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "Hats off to Coach [Dave] Niland and his staff and team for taking away some of our strengths and coming up with big plays when they needed to."
The Lions' Ishimeal Nance (Muscle Shoals, AL/Muscle Shoals) led all scorers with 19 points, and he also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. Rich Bouknight (Norristown, PA/Norristown) and Dequan Jackson (Philadelphia, PA/Murrell Dobbins) added 13 points apiece.
Behrend (13-2, 8-0 AMCC) got 18 points and eight rebounds from Dan Wanker, 13 points from Mike Fischer, and 12 points from Malike Brinson.
Behrend opened the game on a 7-0 run, starting the scoring just three seconds into the game with Justin Gorny's layup before Fischer added a layup of his own and knocked down a three-pointer at 17:15. Wanker's three-pointer at 14:27 kept the home team up by seven points, 12-5.
Penn State Altoona cut its deficit to one, using two jumpers by Nance and a bucket from Bouknight to narrow Behrend's lead to 12-11 by 12:29. Another Nance jump shot at 11:55 kept the difference at one, 14-13.
Ahead by three later in the period, Behrend used an 8-0 run to expand its advantage to its largest lead of the day. Wanker and Brinson each connected from beyond the arc before free throws from Brinson and Connor McLaughlin put the home team up 31-20 by the 5:34 mark.
But Penn State Altoona outscored Behrend 13-3 over the remainder of the half to make it a one-point game again. After Bouknight hit a jumper and sank two foul shots, Austin Krise (Allport, PA/West Branch) and Jackson each made layups to bring the Lions back to within one, 31-30, with 3:13 left.
Brinson and Jalen Archie-Davis (Norcross, GA/Norcross) traded three-pointers within the final minute of the period, and Penn State Altoona went into the locker room trailing 34-33 at the intermission.
The Lions continued to keep things close in the second half, hanging around and eventually grabbing the lead.
Buckets from Jackson, Nance, and Cameron Gardner-Nicholson (Philadelphia, PA/Boys' Latin Charter) kept Behrend's lead at just one point, 43-42, by 15:31. After a basket from Fischer, Bouknight made a layup and foul shot at 13:15 to tie the score 45-45. Three-pointers from Trey Butterworth (Clarence, PA/Bald Eagle) and Aubrey Washington II (Jacksonville, FL/University Christian) gave Penn State Altoona its first lead of the game, 51-50, at 10:58. Krise's foul shot at 10:23 made it 52-50.
Nance's three-point play at 7:32 put Penn State Altoona up 55-54, but Behrend reclaimed the lead shortly thereafter and never relinquished it for the rest of the afternoon.
Two free throws from Wanker and a three-pointer by McLaughlin put Behrend up 59-55 at 6:12. Later, a pair of layups from Fischer helped the home team to maintain a three-point lead, 67-64, with 35 seconds left.
Archie-Davis' basket at the 30-second mark made it a one-point game again, 67-66. But Penn State Altoona was unable to score on either of its final two possessions, and Behrend hang on to seal the win.
"If we want to continue to work towards our goal of being a championship-caliber team, we've got to learn how to execute better down the stretch, especially when we have the opportunity to grow a lead, maintain a lead, or make a big play when we need one," said McGreal.
Next up for Lions basketball, the team hosts AMCC opponent Pitt-Greensburg in the Adler Arena this upcoming Wednesday, January 17 at 6:00 p.m. Following that is another AMCC home game on Saturday, January 20 at 1:00 p.m. against Hilbert College.
"While this one hurts and is one we could have had, we have to refocus and get ready for two big conference games this week and weekend against Pitt-Greensburg and Hilbert," said McGreal. "We have to get back on the winning track to hopefully position ourselves for an opportunity to play in the conference tournament."