Hazleton, Pa. - The Nittany Lions pulled off the upset in their season opener on Friday against Berkeley College, taking the victory on their home court by the score of 76-63. Hazleton trailed by as many as eight points several times throughout the first half but the Lions flipped the script in the final period, converting 19 Berkeley turnovers into 44 second half points to pick up the win over the Knights.
After trading baskets to start off the second half, Hazleton scored 13 straight points over a three minute stretch to capture the lead. Two of the team's six field goals during the spurt came directly off Berkeley turnovers and three others were conversions from offensive rebounds, two trends that would that would become the theme for the Hazleton win. Berkeley would claw their way back into the game and trail by just four points with 10 minutes to play until Hazleton exploited the Knight's defense from beyond the arc. The Lions connected on three straight triples coming from sophomore's Aiden Wiktor (Danville, Pa.), Donovan Cumberbatch (Springfield Gardens, Ny.) and Jahdon Jerome (Cambria Heights, Ny.) that pushed the Nittany Lion lead back to double-figures and gave Hazleton the cushion they needed to win down the stretch.
In the end, Hazleton would win the turnover battle in convincing fashion, forcing 33 miscues by the Knights thanks to some ferocious defense by the Lions. In addition, Hazleton grabbed 14 offensive rebounds in the game that led to 14 second chance points and won the shooting battle from beyond the arc, totaling seven three-point baskets compared to just one make for Berkeley. Eight Nittany Lions registered points in the box score on Friday night, led by Jahdon Jerome's 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting and four steals. Cumberbatch added a fine game himself totaling 16 points, six assists and a team-high five steals to play a major role in the victory.
Next up: Hazleton is off for six days before continuing their early season non-conference schedule. The Lions resume play on Friday, November 11 with a trip to King's College for a 7:00 p.m. road contest in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.