SELINSGROVE, Pa. – After trailing by 14 points with as little as two minutes remaining, the Susquehanna men’s basketball team managed to pull within six points of Scranton in the final 30 seconds of Friday night’s game, but ultimately fell 86-77.
With a possible postseason appearance on the line, the SU men (9-14, 5-7) were dealt a blow as they fell to 5-7 in league play while the Royals improved to 17-4 and 10-2 in conference play.
The Crusaders did see four players reach double figures, led by senior Rob Estep’s (York, Pa./West York/Hobart) 22 points. J.T. Wilson (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII Regional) finished with a double-double for SU with 16 points and a game-high 15 boards, five of which were of the offensive variety. As a team, Susquehanna scored 12 second-chance points while the Royals managed just four all night.
Also chipping in double-digit points for SU were Harley Sellinger (Mill Hall, Pa./Central Mountain) with 16 and Harvey Pannell (Bloomfield, Conn./St. Thomas More) with 12. Pannell also added a game-high six assists.
Susquehanna struggled from three-point range, finishing just 16 percent from beyond the arc while Scranton countered with a 40 percent effort from long range.
The teams got off to fast starts, trading buckets over the opening minutes of the half. SU went up by six, 14-8, less than six minutes into the game following an Estep jumper.
Scranton countered with nine unanswered points to take a 19-14 lead with 11 minutes remaining. Two minutes later the Crusaders had cut it to a one-point game, 21-20, on a Pannell layup.
The Royals went up by eight, 30-22, at the seven-minute mark. Scranton’s Tommy Morgan went down with an injury and after a 20-minute pause in the action while Morgan received medical attention, Scranton went up by double digits (36-26) with 4:25 on the clock.
That 10-point lead did not last long thanks to a Sellinger three-point play that sparked 10 unanswered SU points to tie the game at 36 with 2:15 remaining.
Wilson put SU up 41-40 with two free throws inside the one-minute mark and that remained the halftime score.
One minute into the second-half action, Scranton’s Matt Swaback drained threes on back-to-back possessions to put his squad ahead 46-43. Zach Ashworth sank the Royals’ third-straight three-point bucket of the half, forcing head coach Frank Marcinek to call the half’s first timeout.
Another Scranton trey made it 52-47 with 16:15 to play and Ashworth’s fourth three-pointer of the game put the Royals back up by double digits, 60-49 at the 13:22 mark.
Travis Farrell converted on a four-point play less than a minute later, making it 64-49 9in favor of the Royals.
Wilson snapped a three-minute scoring drought with a three-pointer of his own, but SU still trailed by 12, 64-52, at the midway point of the half.
Susquehanna struggled to get its shots to fall while Scranton maintained its double-digit advantage until Pannell’s bucket at 1:40 made it 78-69. Sellinger followed with a put-back bucket for a 79-71 ballgame with 55 seconds on the clock.
Estep came through with perhaps SU’s biggest play of the half to that point when he converted on a three-point play with 48 seconds remaining that pulled his squad within five (79-74).
Down by six with 30 seconds remaining, Wilson drained a clutch three-pointer that cut Scranton’s lead to three, 80-77, but the Royals sank six free throws over the final 30 seconds to prevent SU from completing its comeback.
Next game: Saturday, Feb. 12 vs. Moravian – 4 p.m. (Senior Day)
- Prior to the start of the game, SU honored head coach Frank Marcinek for his 300th career victory, which he reached late last month, and recognized junior Spenser Spencer for scoring his 1000th career point, which he also did late last month.
- Friday also marked Susquehanna’s annual Pepsi Day, as fans enjoyed free hot dogs and Pepsi beverages.