GREENSBURG, Pa. – Pitt-Greensburg pulled away in the second half of Wednesday night's Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference game in the Chambers Hall Gym, handing the Penn State Altoona men's basketball team a 93-80 loss.
Penn State Altoona (6-13, 5-8 AMCC) trailed by just two points at the half, but Pitt-Greensburg (7-13, 4-9 AMCC) outscored the Lions 54-43 in the second half to widen the gap and win by 13 points.
"Frustrating loss tonight. Hats off to coach [Brody] Jackson and his team. They just played better than us, especially in the second half," said Penn State Altoona head coach David McGreal. "Not sure what we did differently defensively, however, that led to them shooting 19 free throws in the second half off of our personal fouls, but give them credit – they made their free throws when they needed to."
Tyson West (Wheeling, WV/Linsly School) scored a team-high 15 points for Penn State Altoona to go along with four rebounds. Jack Kusters (Quakertown, PA/Lansdale Catholic) finished with 14 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals, and Marshall Higley (Sayre, PA/Sayre) scored 10 points off the bench.
"Great effort by Tyson again tonight, and Marsh shot it well off the bench," said McGreal. "Our shooters did not shoot the ball well at all from distance, and that was the difference."
The Lions' Cameron Gardner-Nicholson (Philadelphia, PA/Boys' Latin Charter) led all players with three blocks while securing a team-high nine rebounds. Malcolm Martin (Chicago, IL/Chicago Vocational) dished out a team-best five assists while scoring seven points, and Y'shua Bragg (Pittsburgh, PA/Carrick) scored eight points and grabbing four boards.
Pitt-Greensburg got a game-high 23 points from Cam Seigfreid – 19 of which came in the second half – as well as 20 points from Jojo France. Brady Kingston scored 16 points, and Cody Spaid finished with 10 points.
"Our game plan was to limit Seigfreid, and we did a great job in the first half," said McGreal. "But, for whatever reason, we allowed him to go off for 19 in the second half."
Kusters' jumper and a three-pointer from Austin Krise (Allport, PA/West Branch) helped the Lions get out to a 5-4 lead early in the first half. Kusters connected from three-point range, and Martin sank a pair of foul shots to make it 10-6 just over four minutes into the game.
Layups from Bragg and Krise kept the Lions up 17-14 at the 11:57 mark, but Pitt-Greensburg embarked on a 19-7 run over the next five minutes to go up by nine. Layups from Kyle Bondi and Kingston started the run, and Tommy Arbuckle's three-pointer put the Bobcats up 21-18 at 10:34. 10 of Pitt-Greensburg's next 12 points came courtesy of France, including a trey that capped the run to give the home squad a 33-24 advantage at 6:46.
Penn State Altoona answered by outscoring Pitt-Greensburg 13-6 in the rest of the half. Robbie Hicks' (Rockledge, FL/Rockledge) three-pointer cut the Bobcats' lead to 37-33 at 2:08, and layups from Richard Dei-Kwarteng (Windsor Hill, MD/Standard of Excellence Academy) and Danny Browne (Downingtown, PA/Bishop Shanahan) tied the score 37-37 with 48 seconds left in the half.
A pair of free throws by Seigfreid with 30 seconds left set the eventual halftime score, 39-37.
Penn State Altoona stayed close early in the second half. Kusters' layup and West's dunk kept the difference at two points, 43-31, just over a minute into the period. Two buckets from Kusters, along with a Martin jump shot and Gardner-Nichsolson layup, brought Penn State Altoona's deficit to 50-49 by 16:42.
The Lions were able to grab their first lead since early in the game following another Gardner-Nicholson layup and a Kusters jumper that put Penn State Altoona up 53-52 at 14:45. After Pitt-Greensburg maneuvered back on top, two three-pointers from Higley tied the score 59-59 by 11:38.
Penn State Altoona continued to stay right with Pitt-Greensburg. Martin converted a three-point play at 9:02, and West followed with a two-point jumper and a three-point field goal to keep his team within one point, 72-71, by 8:04.
But the final eight minutes of the game proved to be the difference-maker. In that span, Pitt-Greensburg outscored Penn State Altoona 21-9 to turn a one-point lead into a 13-point victory.
Pitt-Greensburg earned a little breathing room when the Bobcats got a three-pointer from Seigfreid at 7:05 to make it a four-point game, and David Runco's basket two minutes later put the home team up 81-74.
After a West jumper, Pitt-Greensburg scored the game's next six consecutive points on two baskets from Spaid and another by Seigfreid that extended the Bobcats' advantage to 87-76 with 1:33 to play. Six free throws by Pitt-Greensburg in the final 58 seconds helped ice the game for the Bobcats.
Penn State Altoona finished the evening with statistical advantages over Pitt-Greensburg in rebounds (41-35), points off turnovers (13-10), second chance points (15-9), fastbreak points (13-4), and bench points (33-22).
Penn State Altoona will look to this weekend's back-to-back AMCC games in the Buffalo area to snap its three-game skid. The Lions will travel to take on Hilbert College on Saturday, February 2 at 3:00 p.m. before finishing off the road trip on Sunday, February 3 against Medaille College at 3:00 p.m.
"Now we have to focus on a tough weekend," said McGreal. "If we want to make our way to the conference tourney, we have to play better, especially on the defensive end."