Mont Alto, Pa. - The Nittany Lions (6-9, 4-4 PSUAC) ran into a red hot offense in the first half of Tuesday night's Penn State University Athletic Conference contest at Penn State Mont Alto (7-8, 4-3 PSUAC). The home squad erupted for 48 points in the opening period, shooting well over 50 percent from the floor to garner a 16 point advantage over the Nittany Lions. Hazleton retaliated in the second half behind a 13 point period from sophomore Jacob Solano (Bethlehem, Pa.) and company to get within two possessions in the late stages of play, but could not overcome the deficit to reap a 75-71 loss and fall to 4-4 in the PSUAC.
Jerome Evans powered the Mont Alto attack in the first half, dominating the paint for 22 first half points on nine of 12 shooting. The 6'8" center went on to finish with game highs with 31 points and 16 rebounds including nine boards on the offensive end.
Cody Rydbom earned a double-double off the Mont Alto bench, supplying the home team with 16 points and 10 rebounds while Sharif Welton added 12 rebounds in the win.
Hazleton was led by Solano who shot 50 percent from the floor to finish the night with a team leading 24 points, his third straight 20 plus effort to start the second half of the season.
Hazleton led briefly to start the contest and both teams traded shots through the first 10 minutes of play. Sophomore Gergory DePaolis (Grafton, Ny.) sunk a three with 7:34 to play in the period but the Nittany Lion offense would go cold for the next five minutes of action. Simultaneously, Mont Alto caught fire, amassing 23 points including six buckets in the paint to close the half. Unable to answer Mont Alto's inside attack, the Lions headed to the break trailing 48-32.
Despite brief runs by the Nittany Lions, Mont Alto would maintain there double digit lead until late in the half. With 8:00 minutes to play and trailing 68-54, Mont Alto seemed to run out of steam and Hazleton took full advantage. A pair of jumpers by Kyle Kelly sparked an 11-0 run for the Nittany Lions who held Mont Alto scoreless over the next 4:35. After a Jerome Evans lay-up pushed the lead back to seven for Mont Alto, Kelly responded with a good jumper to get the Lions back within two possessions with three minutes in regulation but the home squad would convert on several free throws down the stretch to maintain their cushion and hang on for the win against a furious comeback attempt by the Lions.
The loss leaves Hazleton stranded in a crowded field at 4-4 in the PSUAC, but has a chance to bounce back on Friday when they head south to face a local rival in Penn State Schuylkill at 8:00 p.m.