Allentown, Pa. - An intriguing battle played out Tuesday night at Cedar Crest College as Penn State Hazleton hit the road for their first action following the Thanksgiving break and their first Penn State University Athletic Conference matchup of the 2016-17 season. Tuesday night's matchup featured a Lehigh Valley squad averaging over 104 points per contest, the highest scoring team in the PSUAC, but the Lion's top five ranked defense traveled well and reigned supreme as Hazleton topped Lehigh Valley for a 76-67 victory.
The Nittany Lions garnered 33 attempts at the charity stripe, cashing in on 27 free throws, both season highs for Hazleton. Sophomore Jacob Solano (Bethlehem, Pa.) bounced back after the break to net a game high 26 points against Lehigh Valley. Solano knocked in nine of 13 shots from the field and seven of seven free throws to lead the Hazleton offense. Teammate junior Kyle Kelly (Manhattan, Ny.) finished the game with 16 points, going nine for 12 from the stripe while senior Dwayne Richardson (Richmond, Va.) provided a spark in reserve, notching six of six free throws and a triple to total nine of the Lion's 17 bench points in the win.
Jordan Young led Lehigh Valley with a team high 12 points while fellow competitors Anthony Molettiere, Jonathan Bule and Othneil Nyamekya each added 10 points respectively. Bule finished with a double-double, tallying 11 rebounds in the losing effort.
Despite heavy foul trouble for the Hazleton big men and 17 offense rebounds for Lehigh Valley, the Lion's feisty defenders kept the home team in check, contesting shots at every turn and holding Lehigh Valley to just 37.9 percent shooting from the field. The Nittany Lions defense was backed up with five first half triples, adding a perfect 8-8 effort from the free throw line, to pull ahead from Lehigh Valley on their way to a 37-32 advantage at the midway point.
Lehigh Valley had its opportunities in the second half, but failed to convert on 11 of 24 attempts at the free throw line and Hazleton's perimeter defense blanked the home team from long range, causing misfires on 11 three point attempts in the second half. Working with the lead, Hazleton turned Lehigh Valley's miscues into momentum on their end of the court, and maintained their advantage with 19 scores from the stripe in the second half, holding off the Lehigh Valley attack for the 76-67 win.
Hazleton remains on the road this weekend when they travel for the season's only western conference road trip. Hazleton will return to action on Friday, December 2 when they face Penn State Beaver at 8:00 p.m., followed by a 3:00 p.m. Saturday contest at Penn State Greater Allegheny.