HAZLETON, Pa. - Penn State Hazleton jumped out to an early lead but couldn't hang on as Penn State Wilkes-Barre stole a 69-65 win in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium on Tuesday night.
Hazleton (4-16, 3-11 PSUAC) led 16-2 a mere five minutes into the first half, and despite Wilkes-Barre clawing back into the game, held a 37-23 advantage at the break. Sophomore Royce Brathwaite (Pocono Summit, Pa.) led the way with 11 points in the first 20 minutes as every Hazleton starter had at least five points.
Wilkes-Barre chipped away at the deficit again to start the second half, but the Lions managed to withstand the charge and lead 50-40 with 10:08 to play. Wilkes-Barre then managed to outscore Hazleton 29-15 over the final half of the second period to grab the win.
Hazleton lost the turnover battle, committing 19 errors that led to 22 points for Wilkes-Barre. The Lions were also outrebounded, 39-33. Each team finished an identical 8-for-24 from behind the arc, but Wilkes-Barre managed two additional free throw attempts and makes to account for the difference.
The Lions jumped out early on Wilkes-Barre as freshman Nick Nowak (Philadelphia, Pa.) hit a three to open the game and added two free throws and a lay-up as Hazleton built a 16-2 lead. Wilkes-Barre cut their deficit to nine with 13:13 to play in the half after a 7-2 spurt, but a 7-0 run by Hazleton stretched the lead up to 16 at 25-9.
Hazleton went scoreless for the next six minutes as Wilkes-Barre scored 11 straight points to make it 25-20 with 5:07 til the break. Brathwaite went to the hoop and was fouled, making one of two at the line to break the drought. A jumper and a lay-up from the point guard, along with a jumper and two free throws from junior Dwayne Richardson (Richmond, Va.), gave the Lions their 14-point cushion at the half, 37-23.
Sophomore Jordan Singletary (Houston, Tx.) scored the first four points of the second half for Hazleton as the teams traded baskets early. Wilkes-Barre kept chipping away, getting within nine with 12:52 to play before freshman Brian Miller (Barnesville, Pa.) hit a three to extend the Hazleton advantage to 46-34.
Mason Moore then got hot for Wilkes-Barre, scoring 11 of the Lions next 13 points, including three three-pointers, as the visitors grabbed their first lead of the night at the 6:59 mark, 53-52. Brathwaite hit a three of his own to swing the lead back to Hazleton, but another Moore three coupled with free throws from both sides left the score tied at 60 with 3:15 remaining.
Brathwaite hit two free throws to give Hazleton the lead, but 38 seconds later the score was tied again, this time at 62. A 7-0 Wilkes-Barre run made it 69-62 with 10 seconds to play, as Brathwaite hit a last second three to make it final 69-65.
Brathwaite finished with a game-high 23 points to go with seven rebounds and two assists. Singletary added another double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds while Richardson chipped in nine points.
Mason Moore caught fire in the second half to finish with a team-high 19 points off the bench, while Dwaine Gilley added 18 for Wilkes-Barre.
Next Up: Hazleton welcomes two teams from the west this weekend as Penn State Greater Allegheny travels to the northeast on Friday, Feb. 12th for an 8:00 p.m. tip. The Lions cap their season on Saturday, Feb. 13th as they host Penn State Beaver at 3:00 p.m.