Dunmore, Pa. - The Nittany Lions got a big boost in the second half Thursday night that propelled the squad to their eighth conference victory of the season, a 73-62 win at Penn State Scranton. Four players cracked double-digits in scoring for Hazleton including season highs from from freshmen Colin Johnson (Raleigh, Nc.) and Jahdon Jerome (Brooklyn, Ny.) as the Lions maintained their grasp on the four spot in the PSUAC Eastern Division standings.
Hazleton got off to a solid start in this one but a five minute scoring drought at the end of the first half left the outcome in doubt. Fortunately the Lions defense prevailed during the offensive downturn, containing Penn State Scranton to just one field goal and four total points over that same period of time, allowing the Lions to maintain a slim 27-26 advantage by the halftime whistle.
The Lions would right the ship after the break and their efficiency was off the charts in final 20 minutes of play. After briefly falling behind to start the second half, Jahdon Jerome scored eight straight points for Hazleton allowing the Lions to reclaim control of the game. After that it was the combination of Jerome, Johnson and freshman Nick Ruggeri (Mountain Top, Pa.) powering the offense through the remainder of play. Jerome and Ruggeri feasted at the free throw line, while Johnson continued to pour in jumpers from beyond the arc. The trio combined for 36 of Hazleton's 46 second half points making it extremely difficult for Scranton to mount a comeback. The Lions steadily built their lead to as many as 13 points with two minutes to play and cruised to the finish line by continuing their hot shooting. In the end, Hazleton shot 14-of-25 from the field in the second half, including 5-of-8 attempts from long range and a perfect 13-for-13 from the free throw line in the final period on their way to an 11 point victory.
Jahdon Jerome provided a great spark off the bench for Hazleton in this one, notching a season high 18 points. The freshman finished the game 7-of-10 from the field and 4-for-4 from the free throw line en route to his best game of the season. Likewise, Colin Johnson posted his best numbers of the season and was electric from beyond the arc. Johnson toted a game and season-high 21 points, connecting on six triples in the win. Senior Aaron Kellmer added three triples of his own to total 14 points with nine rebounds while Nick Ruggeri came up just two assists shy of a triple double. Ruggeri finished the night with 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight dimes with all of his points coming in the second half.
Next up: The Lions face three tough teams down the stretch as we enter the final week of the regular season. Hazleton will face Penn State Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, February 12 at 3:00 p.m. for their final home game before hitting the road next week against Penn State York and Schuylkill to finish off the year.