Dickson City, Pa. - The Nittany Lions tipped off the 2016-17 season with a flood of offense and sound defensive effort at Johnson College on Thursday night. Hazleton outshot the Jaguars by nearly 20 percentage points as they attacked the rim for high quality attempts and contested Johnson College at every turn. Hazleton took their first lead just three minutes into the action and never looked back as they methodically built their lead over the course of the game, resulting in an 89-60 win in game one of the regular season.
Johnson College came out with the momentum on their home floor, opening up a 9-4 lead over Penn State Hazleton in the first several minutes, but the Lions roared back with a tremendous rebounding and shooting effort. For much of the half, Hazleton limited the Jaguars to one and done trips down the floor, out-rebounding their opponents 18-12 in the period. Offensively, Hazleton attacked the rim early, earning their first six field goals in the paint, then worked the ball outside as defenders collapsed on the inside game. Junior Jordan Singletary (Houston, Tx.) served up four early buckets for the Lions before heading to the bench with two early fouls. Stepping in to fill the void was sophomore Jacob Solano (Bethlehem, Pa.) who powered the Hazleton offense in his first game in a Nittany Lion uniform since 2015. Solano caught fire from the opening whistle, delivering on nine of nine attempts to put the Nittany Lions on top by as many as 20 points in the period. By the half's end, Hazleton had doubled the field goal output of the Jaguars, downing 22 field goals including five triples to carry a 49-31 advantage into the break.
With the defense keying on Solano, the sophomore shifted gears from scorer to distributor, dishing out five dimes in the period to keep the offense rolling. Hazleton used an 11-0 run in the early stages of the second half to build a commanding lead over the Jaguars, effectively putting the game out of reach. With a comfortable lead, the Hazleton reserves added 12 points off the bench to maintain the near 30 point margin over Johnson College and pick up the first win of the season.
The Jaguars were led by Zahir Robinson who topped all scorers in the contest with 26 points on 10 of 24 shooting from the field. Zahir Gillis also reached double figures for Johnson, adding 12 points in the losing effort.
Solano hit 11 of 12 from the field including two triples to lead the Lions with 24 points, adding six assists and a pair of steals in a stellar return to the court. Jordan Singletary finished the game 8-12 from the floor to total 17 points while pulling down nine rebounds defending the hoop with four blocked shots. Sophomore Gregory DePaolis (Grafton, Ny.) came off the bench to add eight points and a team high ten rebounds in the victory.
Hazleton has the weekend off before returning to the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnasium for a three game homestand next week. The Lions take on Luzerne County Community College on Monday, November 7 at 8:00 p.m.