Hazleton, Pa. - The Nittany Lions returned to the court for their first game of 2022 on Wednesday, squaring off with Penn State Brandywine in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium. After a slow start by both teams, Hazleton got a surge of offense in the second period, outscoring Brandywine 22-11 and led Brandywine by double-figures until the final four minutes of the game. Hazleton held off a late rally by the visitors and finished the game on a 5-0 run to escape with a win by the score of 56-45, improving their record to 8-5 overall and 7-3 in the PSUAC.
Both teams combined for just 13 points in the first period but the Lions offense came to life in the second period. Hazleton freshman Cassandra Rodriguez (League City, Tx.) knocked in two of her three triples in the period combined with a seven point effort by freshman Ashley James (Weatherly, Pa.) to help the Lions build a 12 point cushion by the midway point of Wednesday's game. The Lions would extend their lead to as many as 15 points in the third quarter and was content to trade baskets with Brandywine to the finish line, but a late flurry of offense by the visitors left the game up for grabs with four minutes to play in regulation.
Brandywine held the Nittany Lions scoreless for a five minute stretch late in the fourth quarter, going on a 6-0 over that period of time to bring the score to 50-43 with less than a minute to play. Freshman Rocky Curry (Darby, Pa.) finally broke the Hazleton scoring drought connecting on 1-of-2 free throws but a quick basket from Brandywine made it a two possession game but with just 38 ticks remaining, Brandywine was forced to foul and send Hazleton to the charity stripe. Curry would go on to connect on a pair of free throws and the Lions forced a pair of Brandywine turnovers as the clock wound down to sure up the win by an 11 point margin.
On a tough shooting night for both teams, Hazleton finished the game firing 35.7 percent from the field compared to just 27.4 percent for Brandywine who had just two players reach double-digits. Amanda Floyd led the visitors with 11 points while Amelia Brooks tallied 10 points and 13 rebounds. For Hazleton, Rodriguez powered the offense with a game-high 16 points, including 4-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Freshman Azaria Johnson (Richomond Hill, Ga.) salvaged her night with five makes from the free throw line to finish with 11 points and seven rebounds while Curry served up a monster game defensively with 14 rebounds, four steals and a pair of blocked shots to round out Hazleton's top performers.
Next up: The Nittany Lions are back in action on Saturday, January 22 when the squad travels to Penn State Wilkes-Barre for a 1:00 p.m. conference game.