Hazleton, Pa. - The Nittany Lions wrapped up their three game home stand to end the fall semester with an 85-58 win over Penn State Lehigh Valley. Hazleton shot over 50 percent from the field Friday night and out-rebounded Lehigh Valley by a margin of 16, part of a total team effort to improve their conference record to 3-1 as they enter the winter break.
Leading the red hot Hazleton offense was junior Andy Kwaitkowski (Gaithersburg, Md.) who registered a season high 26 points and nine rebounds. Kwaitkowski was nearly unstoppable in this one, converting 9-of-15 shots from the field including a pair of triples whilel going 6-for-6 from the free throw line. The junior has now registered double figures in all but one game this season averaging just under 17 points per contest.
Kwaitkowski wasn't the only player with a big night as three other Nittany Lions topped double figures. Senior Nick Nowak (Philadelphia, Pa.) scored 11 of his 15 total points in the second half, adding seven assists and three steals in the victory. Sophomore Brandon Mohammed (Albrightsville, Pa.) captured his second straight double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds while junior Robbie Hopkins (Mountain Top, Pa.) served up 10 points including a pair triples.
Hazleton had scored just 19 points in the first 13 minutes of the game however all that would change with 6:30 remaining in the first half. A pair of lay ups by Brandon Mohammed sparked a 13-4 run by the Nittany Lions, stretching a one point advantage into a double-figure lead. Despite losing the turnover battle in the period, the Lions would connect on 15-of-30 shots from the field including five triples to carry a 12 point cushion into halftime.
The Lions found continued success on the offensive end as play resumed but cranked up the intensity on the defensive end. Hazleton would force 10 Lehigh Valley turnover in the second period and nabbed six steals to pull away from the visitors. At one point, the Nittany Lions held Lehigh Valley scoreless for a seven minute stretch midway through the period, going up by as many as 33 points on their way to a crucial win in the Penn State University Athletic Conference.
Next up: The Lions sit in sole possession of second place in the PSUAC as they conclude play in 2018. Hazleton takes on Penn State Schuylkill when play resumes on January 7 and will look to continue their push for a playoff berth.