Hazleton, Pa. - Stout pressure from the Mont Alto defense challenged the Nittany Lion attack Friday night at the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium, forcing Hazleton to work for every inch of the court and limiting the Lions ability to set their offense. Penn State Hazleton (4-8, 2-3 PSUAC) shot just 36 percent from the field as Penn State Mont Alto (9-1, 4-0 PSUAC) surged midway through the opening half, opening up a commanding lead and defeating the Nittany Lions 75-49 in the mid-season finale.
Mont Alto stole the early lead in the ball game, but a trio of triples from the Hazleton offense gave the Nittany Lions a 13-11 lead midway through the opening period. With 11:20 remaining in the half, the visitors turned up the heat on Hazleton with full and half court pressure forcing the Lions into short shot clock situations. Mont Alto converted Hazleton's possessions into defensive stops and took to the attack on the offensive end, pulling away from the Lions with a 14-0 over the next two minutes. Mont Alto's Mykel Barber caught fire from long range with 6:20 remaining in the half, draining three consecutive baskets from beyond the arc and Mont Alto carried a 19 point advantage into the break 46-27.
Facing a steep uphill climb in the second half, the Nittany Lion offense turned to the three point shot to get back in contention, but no comeback was forthcoming against the No. 2 ranked Mont Alto squad. Despite 14 made free throws in the final period, the Nittany Lions failed to cut into the first half deficit, shooting just 13 percent from the field in the half.
Sophomore Royce Brathwaite (Pocono Summit, Pa.) scored 14 points on a tough shooting night for the Lions. Junior Dwayne Richardson (Richmond, Va.) added 10 points, going seven of eight from the charity stripe. Sophomore Jordan Singletary (Houston, Tx.) was held in check on the offensive side of the floor, but continued to stymie opponents at the rim to the tune of seven blocked shots.
Six visiting players scored eight or more in the contest in what was a fine all-around performance from the field. Mont Alto shot 44.8 percent from the field, making 9 of twenty attempts from long range. Jerome Evans and Mykel Barber led the team in scoring, each with 11 points on the evening.
Next Up: The Lions head into the winter recess looking to get healthy and rebound in the second half of Penn State University Athletic Conference play. Hazleton will next take the court on January 15 when they head west to Penn State Fayette.