Hazleton, Pa. - The Nittany Lions were overpowered in the paint on Saturday night, leading to a 71-53 defeat at the hands of Penn State University Athletic Conference opponent Lehigh Valley.
Hazleton was held to just 33.9 percent shooting while Lehigh Valley dominated the rebounding efforts 50-20. Lehigh continued to limit Hazleton to one and done opportunities in the second half and the visitors converted scores at a rate of 51.9 percent to pull away from Lions midway through the final act for the double-digit victory.
Lehigh Valley was led by Tarvis Gilbert who notched a game high 17 points. Gilbert was three of six from long range, totaling five assists and three steals. Zach Thomas added 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists while Shane Schmidt came off the bench to hit four triples and total 12 points in the win.
Leading the way for Hazleton was junior Kyle Kelly (Manhattan, Ny.) with 15 points. Sophomore Gregory DePaolis (Grafton, Ny.) added 11 points including a three for seven effort from beyond the arc.
Lehigh Valley would open the game with an early 12-6 run, but a pair of triples from freshman Robbie Hopkins (Mt. Top, Pa.) and Dwayne Richardson (Richmond, Va.) would knot the score at the 12 minute mark. The visitors would utilize a 13-4 run over the next five minutes of action to build a 25-16 advantage over Hazleton, but the Nittany Lions would limit Lehigh to just three field goals in the final seven minutes of the half. Trailing by as many as 11 with 7:05 to play, Hazleton closed the gap in the final minutes of the period, capping the half with a three pointer by Gregory DePaolis to trail Lehigh Valley 33-27 at the half.
Hazleton scored five quick points to keep pace with Lehigh in the first moments of the half, but a six minute scoring drought saw the visitors use a 10-0 run to increase their advantage back to double figures. Back to back scores from DePaolis and sophomore Nick Nowak (Philadelphia, Pa.) would get the Nittany Lions back within 11 points by the 12 minute mark but Lehigh Valley would heat up from beyond the arc. The visitors knocked in five triples in the final 11 minutes of play to keep the Lions at bay and increase their advantage to as many as 21 points in the half.
A pair of must win games remain in the regular season for Hazleton. The Lions will travel to Penn State Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday, February 7 and return home for their final game against Penn State Schuylkill on Friday, February 10. Hazleton will need a pair of wins and some help from conference opponents to leap frog teams in the standings and earn a ticket to post season play.