ALTOONA, Pa. – Penn State Altoona men's basketball lost its final game of the 2017-18 regular season on Saturday afternoon, falling 86-68 to Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent Penn State Behrend in the Adler Arena.
Despite Penn State Altoona's Senior Day festivities, it was Penn State Behrend (19-6, 14-4 AMCC) that spoiled the day for the Lions. Behrend shot 62.1% in the first half, en route to a 17-point halftime lead. The visitors maintained their lead throughout the second half to get the win and end Penn State Altoona's home conference winning streak after 12 consecutive AMCC wins in Adler.
With the result, Behrend clinches the number two seed and a first round bye in the upcoming AMCC Tournament. Penn State Altoona (17-8, 13-5 AMCC), based on the loss and a tiebreaking coin flip to determine seeding between the Lions and Medaille College, drops to the number four seed in the AMCC Tournament. Penn State Altoona will host fifth-seeded Hilbert College in a first round AMCC playoff game this Wednesday, February 21 at 7:00 p.m. in Adler.
"I'm obviously disappointed with the outcome of today's game, but you have to give a ton of credit to Behrend. They played their best game when they needed to," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "It's a tough way for the regular season to end, especially with how well we've played at home all year. But we didn't come out with the intensity we needed to, especially on the defensive end, and Behrend made us pay for it."
Penn State Altoona's Dequan Jackson (Philadelphia, PA/Murrell Dobbins) led all scorers on the day with 21 points to go along with a game-high four steals. Ishimeal Nance (Muscle Shoals, AL/Muscle Shoals) added 14 points, a team-best eight rebounds, and tied with Jackson for the game-high in steals with four.
Behrend got 20 points and six assists from Andy Niland. Malike Brinson added 15 points and six boards for the visitors, while Justin Gorny and Dan Wanker scored 14 each. Mike Fischer put up 12 points with eight boards and a game-high seven assists.
"On top of the loss on the court, we also took a loss on the coin flip tiebreaker, which puts us in a tough place for the tournament having to host a red hot Hilbert team in the first round," said McGreal. "Luckily, we get them at home, and hopefully we can regroup and come away with a win to put us in the semifinals next weekend."
After Behrend had built an 18-11 lead by the 15:01 mark of the first half, Jackson's steal and fastbreak dunk at 14:15 helped to bring the home team to within three, 18-15.
But Behrend embarked on an 18-4 run over the next eight-plus minutes. Niland's three-pointer at 8:36 brought the visitors' lead into the double digits for the first time, 29-17, and his four-point play at 7:30 made it 33-19. Brinson hit from three-point range at 5:57 to give Behrend a 17-point lead, 36-19.
Layups by Gorny and Niland helped Behrend go up by 20 points, 48-28, with 21 seconds left in the half. Bouknight answered with a three-pointer at the two-second mark for Penn State Altoona, setting the halftime score at 48-31.
Penn State Altoona went to work at cutting its deficit in the second half, and the Lions succeeded to make it a single-digit point difference several times in the period.
The Lions' 10-3 run early in the second half, during which Higley hit a pair of three-pointers and made a layup in transition, cut Behrend's lead to 57-49 by 10:10. A three-pointer from Aubrey Washington II (Jacksonville, FL/University Christian) kept the difference at eight points, 60-52, at 9:27.
After Behrend had gone back up by 12 points, the Lions got a fastbreak dunk from Nance and a layup by Jalen Archie-Davis (Norcross, GA/Norcross) to bring it back to an eight-point game, 70-62, with 3:55 to play.
But Behrend responded right away, using Gorny's dunk at 3:10 and Brinson's trey at 2:45 to secure a 76-62 advantage. The visitors kept the momentum in their corner and went on to win by 18 points.
Despite the loss, the Lions' day was capped by the team's Senior Day ceremony, when it recognized Bouknight, Jackson, and Nance for their contributions to the program.
"At the end of the day, it has been a remarkable year, and these seniors are a huge reason for our success," said McGreal. "I am so proud to have coached them and this time, and like I told them in the locker room, our season isn't over yet. And hopefully we can make some noise come tourney time!"
The Lions host Hilbert in the first round of the AMCC Tournament on Wednesday, February 21 at 7:00 p.m. in the Adler Arena.