CRESSON, Pa. – The little things had a big impact in Wednesday night's Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference game, in which Penn State Altoona men's basketball suffered a 77-73 loss to rival Mount Aloysius College at the Athletic, Convocation, and Wellness Center.
The Lions' (6-11, 5-6 AMCC) inability to capitalize in several key situations – particularly at the free throw line – made the difference in their four-point loss. Penn State Altoona shot just 52.9% (9-for-17) at the foul line, compared to Mount Aloysius' (10-8, 7-4 AMCC) 78.3% (18-for-23) performance there.
"Tough loss tonight, but still proud of the effort of the majority of the team," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "Our biggest problem was not being able to convert at the free throw line. We had some really big misses at crucial times. All in all, I'm happy with how we competed, but I still felt like we left a lot out there that could've brought home the win."
With starting center Cameron Gardner-Nicholson unavailable, Marshall Higley (Sayre, PA/Sayre) stepped up to lead the Lions in points and rebounds. Higley came off the bench to put up career-highs with 18 points and seven rebounds , shooting 5-for-9 from beyond the arc and 6-for-12 from the field overall.
Jalen Archie-Davis (Norcross, GA/Norcross) scored 13 points while posting team-highs with five assists and two steals. Nate Gillen (Johnstown, PA/Central Cambria) totaled 12 points off the bench on a 5-for-7 shooting performance that included a 2-for-3 showing from three-point range. Y'shua Bragg (Pittsburgh, PA/Carrick) posted 10 points and four rebounds.
"Not having Cam obviously hurt a lot, but I thought we still had a great opportunity to win that game," said McGreal. "Huge effort by Marshall and Nate off the bench, which really sparked us offensively."
Nate Christian and Carlos Palacios tied Higley for the game-high in scoring, finishing with 18 points apiece for Mount Aloysius. Imrane Amadou had a double-double, posting 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Trent McErlane chipped in 10 points for the Mounties.
Wednesday's game was closely-fought from beginning to end, with the largest lead of the night by either team being six points. The contest featured 17 lead changes, and the score was tied on 13 different occasions.
By the end of the first half, Penn State Altoona and Mount Aloysius were deadlocked 30-30.
After Higley's three-pointer midway through the first half put Penn State Altoona up 15-13, Mount Aloysius used a 7-0 run to stake out a five-point lead. Christian accounted for all seven of his team's points during the run, hitting three jumpers, the last of which was a three-point play to make it 20-15 at the 8:47 mark.
Shortly thereafter, Penn State Altoona responded with a 7-0 run of its own to turn a 22-17 deficit into a two-point lead. Gillen's three-pointer started the rally, and Archie-Davis' bucket tied the score at 22. Bragg's layup at 4:05 made it 24-22.
Mount jumped ahead 28-26 on Amadou's layup and foul shot with 2:24 left in the opening half, but scores by Higley and Gillen helped keep the score knotted 30-30 by the intermission.
Penn State Altoona started the second half by getting a three-pointer from Jack Kusters (Quakertown, PA/Lansdale Catholic) and a layup from Bragg. Later, the Lions stayed on top 50-49 following another three-pointer from Higley.
The Mounties used the three ball to their advantage, responding with treys from McErlane and Palacios to jump ahead 55-50 by the 9:55 mark. But Penn State Altoona struck back, getting two free throws from Archie-Davis and a pair of layups from Richard Dei-Kwarteng (Windsor Hill, MD/Standard of Excellence Academy), the second of which led to a three-point play, to get back on top, 57-55. Robbie Hicks (Rockledge, FL/Rockledge) made a pair of free throws at 7:14 to extend the Lions' lead to 59-55. Higley's three-pointer at 6:51 gave Penn State Altoona its largest lead of the night, 62-57.
But Mount Aloysius closed the gap, eventually tying the game at 5:03 on two Amadou free throws. Josiah Jones' three-pointer at 3:15 put the Mounties up 65-64, and a trey from Palacios made it 68-65 28 seconds later.
Higley connected from three-point range at 1:40 to help bring Penn State Altoona back to within two points, 71-69, but the Lions were unable to make up any more ground. Palacios' layup and foul shot at 1:06 boosted Mount Aloysius' advantage to 74-69, and the Mounties got free throws from Julian Stover and McErlane within the final 34 seconds to help solidify their lead.
Penn State Altoona men's basketball will look to bounce back at home this Saturday, January 26, when the Lions host AMCC opponent Penn State Behrend for a 4:00 p.m. contest in the Adler Arena. That date is also marked as Pediatric Cancer Awareness Day, as well as the Athletics department's "SAAC for Socks" initiative to collect new socks, hats, and gloves for the local homeless community.