Wilkes-Barre, Pa. - The Nittany Lions battled for 40 minutes but came up short Tuesday night at King's College by the score of 77-66. Hazleton dominated points in the paint but a wide disparity from the charity stripe and a 77 percent shooting effort from beyond the arc made all the difference in what was otherwise a closely contested matchup.
The Monarchs shot just 59 percent from the free throw line but outshot Hazleton by 17 attempts to carry a seven point differential from the line. Combined with a 10-13 effort from long range, King's made up the eventual 11 point difference to come out victorious in their first outing of the year. Hazleton outscored King's 32-18 in the paint and battled back from a 14 point first half deficit to keep within striking distance, nearly overtaking the Monarchs in the second half, but 14 second half points from the free throw line gave King's the edge in this ball game.
Both squads traded baskets through the first five minutes of play until a lay-in from junior Kyle Kelly (Manhattan, Ny.) gave Hazleton an 11-7 lead. But that lead wouldn't last long as King's went on an 18-5 run over the next six minutes, including three buckets from downtown to surge past the Lions with under 10 minutes to play. King's would expand their lead to as many as 14 points in the period, but a pair of triples by sophomore Jacob Solano (Bethlehem, Pa.) got Hazleton back in contention. Hazleton closed out the period with a 9-2 run of their own to trail King's by seven points at the break.
King's would expand their lead back to as many as 13 in opening minutes of play but midway through the period, Hazleton began to build momentum and chip away at the Monarchs defenses. An 8-0 run by Hazleton over a four minute stretch cut the King's advantage to just three points, and a triple by sophomore Gregory DePaolis (Grafton, Ny.) with eight minutes remaining shrunk the deficit to just one point at 53-52. Solano and junior Jordan Singletary (Houston, Tx.) tacked on points from the free throw line to keep the Lions in the game, but a pair of three's from King's Jake Barber and a lay-up from Dan Rutecki helped boost the Monarch advantage back to double figures with just 1:41 left in regulation. Forced to send the Monarch's to the line, King's converted on five of their final six attempts from the charity stripe to maintain the lead and come out on top 77-76.
Connor Callejas went 4-5 from beyond the arc to finish the game with a team high 17 points for King's while teammate Dan Rutecki went a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line, adding 14 total points and nine rebounds in the win. John Fazzini and Chris Fazzini tossed in double figure efforts, adding 11 and 10 points respectively to round out the top scorers for the Monarchs.
Jacob Solano offered a game high 25 points for the Nittany Lions on 9-18 shooting from the field. Jordan Singletary continued to wreak havoc in the paint, notching 15 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and three steals.
Hazleton is off until the end of the week when they'll travel to Misericordia University for a Thanksgiving holiday tournament in Dallas, Pa. The Lions will take on William Patterson University at 6:00 p.m on Friday, November 18, then retake the floor on Saturday to face Clarks Summit University or the host team in Misericordia.