LAGRANGE, Ga. – Penn State Altoona men's basketball saw its lead slip away in the waning seconds of Saturday evening's game in the Wingate by Wyndham Classic at LaGrange College, as Birmingham-Southern College came back from a deficit to defeat the Lions 82-78 in the Mariotti Gym.
Penn State Altoona (1-3) led by as many as 14 points during the game, and they held a six-point advantage with two minutes left in the contest. But Birmingham-Southern (4-1) outscored the Lions 11-1 in the game's final 1:54 to grab the win.
"Absolutely gut-wrenching way to let this one slip away. Hats off to BSC, as they continued to battle and make plays down the stretch to pull out the win," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "We have a lot to be proud of, as we continue to progress and improve as a team. We played a very good and experienced team tonight, and we took it to them and had our chances. But as has been the case in a lot of our last few games going back to last year, we haven't been able to close out games when we need to."
Penn State Altoona's Shevelle Bailey (Titusville, FL/Titusville) scored a season-high 26 points to lead all players in the game, and he also distributed a team-best six assists and tied for the team-high in steals with three. Cameron Gardner-Nicholson (Philadelphia, PA/Boys' Latin Charter) recorded his third consecutive double-double, grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds and scoring 10 points.
Birmingham-Southern got 24 points from Zachary Allison to go along with 11 points and eight rebounds from Christian Stewart.
Penn State Altoona's offense clicked in the first half, shooting 48.7% from the field – including a 7-for-13 performance from three-point range.
Archie-Davis' layup and foul shot at 18:52 helped the Lions to an early 5-2 lead. Layups from Bailey and Krise, along with a Bailey three-pointer, extended their team's lead to 12-7 by 17:03. Two more Bailey treys and an Archie-Davis bucket gave Penn State Altoona a 20-11 lead at 15:40. Shortly thereafter, Kusters connected from beyond the arc and Malcolm Martin (Chicago, IL/Chicago Vocational) made a layup to set the Lions' lead at 25-11 by 14:33.
Birmingham-Southern narrowed its deficit over the next several minutes and cut Penn State Altoona's lead to 37-33 on Stewart's layup at 5:33.
But the Lions reeled off a 10-0 run, during which Bailey scored eight of his team's 10 points. Gardner-Nicholson capped the run with a layup at the 1:50 mark that gave the Lions a 47-33 lead, their largest of the game. Allison and Shandon Marshall (Brownsville, PA/Brownsville) traded three-pointers to keep the difference at 14 points, 50-36, with 56 seconds left in the opening half.
Birmingham-Southern's Ben Spence hit a three-pointer just before the end of the first period to set the halftime score at 50-39.
In the second half, Penn State Altoona was unable to find the same success on offense. The Lions shot 31.0% from the field during the second period, including making just two of their 15 attempts from beyond the arc. Birmingham-Southern took advantage, and the Panthers outscored the Lions 43-28 during the second half.
Marshall Higley (Sayre, PA/Sayre) kept the Lions hot from downtown, hitting a three-pointer at 18:21 to give Penn State Altoona a 13-point lead, 55-42. Another trey from Kusters at 12:11 put the differential at nine points, 62-53.
But Birmingham-Southern continued to close the gap. Allison's layup at 8:20 brought the Panthers to within six points, 66-60. Two free throws from Spence made it a five-point game, 71-66, at the 4:04 mark, and an Allison foul shot at 2:21 cut the Lions' lead to four, 75-71.
Bailey's layup at 2:12 gave Penn State Altoona a 77-71 lead, but that proved to be the last field goal of the game for the Lions. Two baskets by Allison inside the two-minute mark cut the Lions' lead to two, 77-75, and Troy Stephens followed with a three-pointer at 1:06 to give Birmingham-Southern its first lead since the game's opening basket.
After Archie-Davis made a free throw to tie the score 78-78, Allison converted a three-point play with 28 seconds remaining to give the Panthers an 81-78 advantage. Another foul shot by Allison with six seconds left made it 82-78.
In the loss, Penn State Altoona found some positives that included more improvement in rebounding and a strong performance at the free throw line. The Lions posted a 46-34 advantage in rebounds, and they shot 13-for-15 (86.7%) from the foul line as a team.
"Now we have to pick ourselves up and get ready to get a win tomorrow to have some good momentum heading into Wednesday's conference opener," said McGreal.
Penn State Altoona returns to action tomorrow, Sunday, November 25, for the second and final day of the Wingate by Wyndham Classic at LaGrange. The Lions will take on Berry College at 4:00 p.m. to wrap up their southern road trip. After returning to Pennsylvania, Penn State Altoona will host Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference rival Mount Aloysius College on Wednesday, November 28 at 8:00 p.m.