Hazleton, Pa. - The Nittany Lions sealed up a playoff spot in the Penn State University Athletic Conference back on February 9th but since then had lost three straight conference games heading into the regular season's final game against Penn State Schuylkill. All that changed on Friday night in the Dr. Thomas M. Caccese Gymnaiusm as Hazleton flipped the late February script with a resounding 91-71 win against the PSUAC eastern division's number three seed in the upcoming post-season.
Hazleton was on fire in the first half from the opening tip. Triples by senior Cordell Muthler (Lock Haven, Pa.) and junior Andy Kwiatkowski (Gaithersburg, Md.) kicked off one of the best displays of offense all season by the Nittany Lions who missed just eight shots the entire half. Hazleton would turn their attention to the paint following the early burst from beyond the arc, getting efficient looks from juniors Brandon Mohammed (Albrightsville, Pa.) and Brett Kosciolek (Tamaqua, Pa.) who shot a combined 13-of-15 from the field in the first 20 minutes of play. Schuylkill would battle through the Hazleton onslaught and keep the deficit to single digits behind a red hot Price Szeliga who came off the bench to score 13 straight points for Schuylkill but Hazleton wasn't phased by the sharp-shooter. The Lions would finish the half on a 10-2 run capped by back to back triples from Mohammed and Kosciolek who migrated outside of the paint for wide open looks from beyond the arc and giving Hazleton a 52-37 cushion at halftime.
After shooting over 72 percent from the field in the first half, Hazleton inevitably cooled off to a degree, but continued to stay hot from beyond the arc. Senior Robbie Hopkins (Mountain Top, Pa.) broke out in the early phases of the first half for a pair of long range makes and Kwiatkowski continued to pressure the Schuylkill defense with one of the best inside/out attacks in the PSUAC. By the 11 minute mark, Hazleton had secured their first 20 point lead of the game and effectively traded baskets with Schuylkill for the remainder of play to claim victory and finish the regular season on a high note.
Kwiatkowski continued to fill up the stat sheet, totaling a game high 26 points, adding eight rebounds and five assists in the win. Brandon Mohammed added a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double this season. Cordell Muthler pitched in with 13 points as did Brett Kosciolek who added six rebounds and a game high three blocked shots. Overall, Hazleton finished the game shooting over 50 percent from the field, 13-of-27 from beyond the arc and out-rebound Schuylkill 48-35 to secure the win.
Next up: The Lions successfully stop the three game skid on their way to the PSUAC post-season where they'll look to stay hot and make a run for a championship. The number four seeded Nittany Lions will travel to face the eastern division's top seeded team in Penn State York on Tuesday, February 25. Tip-off slated for 8:00 p.m. at the Penn State York campus.