BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The Moravian College men's basketball team came back from a 14-point first half deficit to take a double-digit lead in the second half before falling at the final buzzer, 69-68, to the University of Scranton in Landmark Conference action Wednesday evening in Johnston Hall.
Scranton outscored the Greyhounds, 38-30, in the opening 20 minutes of action while the Hounds, who fall to 7-9 overall and 2-6 in Landmark Conference action, had a 38-31 edge in points in the second half.
"I thought the first half was played to their liking, and the second half was played to our liking," commented Head Coach Justin Potts. "We talked about coming into the game about getting the tempo at a pace that we wanted to play at, and we struggled to do that in the first half. In the second half, we made some shots early which got us into our press, and the guys have done a great job adjusting to some things as the season has gone along in the press. Tonight was two teams that want to play completely different, and we controlled the style for most of the second half. They just made one more play than we did down the stretch."
Freshman guard/forward Jake McGee led three Greyhounds in double figures with 20 points off the bench to go along with five rebounds. Freshman forward Oneil Holder added 16 points, six boards and a pair of blocked shots while sophomore guard Matt Cardonne tossed in 10 points with a pair of assists.
Junior forward Brandon McGuire led Moravian on the boards with a game-high 10 rebounds as the Hounds out-rebounded the Royals, 36-30, and McGuire also had nine points and three assists. Junior guard Sean Hanna also scored nine points and grabbed three rebounds while sophomore guard Khalil Rhett and freshman forward Sebastien Jasmin each had three boards.
"I thought Oneil played well despite being in a little bit of foul trouble," noted Potts. "Matt, junior guard Tom Cicalese, Sean and Khalil did a good job, and sophomore guard Jack Aussenheimer gave us some good minutes on the wing with freshman guard Jimmy Murray missing the game with an injury. It was a pretty good team effort from all of the guys with Jake and Oneil playing really well."
Scranton jumped out to a 4-0 lead but a three-pointer by Hanna would put the Blue and Grey up 6-4 at the 16:18 mark. After a few minutes of trading the lead, Moravian held a 14-11 edge after a Cardonne three-pointer with 10:29 left in the opening half. The Royals would score 22 of the next 26 points, opening a 33-18 lead with 3:06 until the intermission, and Moravian was able to cut the deficit to eight points, 38-30, at halftime.
The Greyhounds needed just three possessions to regain the lead at the start of the second half with three-pointers by McGuire, Holder and Cardonne giving Moravian a 39-38 edge just 1:43 into the final 20 minutes of action. The teams traded the lead again until McGuire pushed the Hounds up 43-42 with a lay-up.
Scranton cut Moravian lead to 47-45 with 11:38 on the clock before the Greyhounds went on a 12-3 run to take a 59-48 lead after a three-pointer by Hanna with 8:38 remaining. Moravian's lead was still at 11 points after McGee connected on two free throws 30 seconds later but the Royals had a 15-4 run to tie the game at 65-65 with 1:53 to go.
McGee pushed Moravian back ahead with a three-pointer with 1:24 on the clock while Scranton scored with 48 ticks left to make it a one-point game. Each team would miss a field goal attempt before McGee was fouled with 16 seconds remaining. He missed the front end of the one-and-one, and Scranton rebounded the ball. After a timeout, the Royals would hit a driving baseline lay-up as the buzzer sounded to end the game.
"I thought Jake played great, and he made some big shots," Potts said. "The last two games he's played much better. He is a freshman, and as I tell the guys all the time is that we are building a program here. You have to put yourself in situations to win games. We did that but we didn't close it. When we get the next opportunity, I think we'll respond to it, and Jake is a guy I completely trust will make the next free throw he gets in that situation. He shouldn't hang his head, and he did a lot of good thing. As a team, I thought we did a lot of good things."
The Greyhounds' pressure defense would force Scranton into 11 turnovers in the contest.
Moravian is slated to return to action on Saturday, January 23 in a Landmark Conference game at Juniata College with tip-off slated for 2:00 p.m. in Huntingdon.