Turnovers Doom Wildcats in 87-77 Loss to Penn St.-Harrisburg
UTICA, NY – The SUNYIT Men's Basketball team (1-10, 0-1 NEAC) opened conference play with a loss on Saturday, 87-77 to last year's NEAC League Champ, Penn State-Harrisburg (9-3, 3-0 NEAC). Despite rallying to cut the deficit to five at one point in the second half, the Wildcats were unable to catch the veteran Nittany Lions, who led from tip to finish.
Four players scored in double figures for the victorious Lions, led by 6'3" forward Kenton Alston, who filled up the stat sheet with 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 4 steals. Point Jordan Gatchell added 18 points on perfect 10 for 10 shooting from the free throw line, and dished out 7 assists while swiping 4 steals.
While there were few bright spots for the Wildcats, who turned the ball over a whopping 35 times on the game, junior Justin Brignola (Clifton Park, N.Y. / Shenendehowa) came off the bench to tie Sejad Gromilic (Bosnia / Utica-Proctor) for the team lead in points with 15.
Despite a brutally tough first half that included 20 turnovers and just 54% shooting from the charity stripe (7-12), the Wildcats kept their heads up and showed resilience in the second half. A Ryan James (Saratoga Springs, N.Y. / Saratoga Springs) layup with just over three minutes left in the game brought SUNYIT to within four, 67-63. James, a first-year player, continued his marked improvement of late with 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals in 25 minutes of work.
James's heroics were dashed barely a minute later, however, when – after a Sejad Gromilic free throw and Amani Glenn (Harrisburg) layup – Jordan Gatchell put the nail in the coffin with a three-pointer to go up 72-64 at just under two-and-a-half minutes. Gatchell then proceeded to make 8 of 8 free throws to salt the game away once SUNYIT was forced to foul.
The Wildcats will be back on the court in less than 24 hours for another home contest, this time versus the Bison of Gallaudet University. Game time is set for 12:00 pm on Sunday, Jan. 8, to precede the women's game at 2:00 pm.