SELINSGROVE, Pa. – A streaking Susquehanna men's basketball team saw its season come to an end with a rare home loss on Wednesday night. SU fell 77-58 to Juniata in the semifinal round of the Landmark Conference Tournament.
The Crusaders, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, suffered its first home loss since early December.
Turnovers proved costly for SU (15-10), as the team had 19 which translated into 16 Juniata points. The Eagles (18-8), meanwhile, had just five turnovers and held a 28-12 edge in points in the paint.
J.T. Wilson (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII Regional) led the Crusaders with his 17-point effort, while senior Spenser Spencer (Seattle, Wash./Lakeside) closed out his career with a 16-point outing. Harley Sellinger (Mill Hall, Pa./Central Mountain) chipped in 10 points and six boards while Mike Perillo (Holmdel, N.J./Holmdel) had a game-high 11 assists.
The first half was a nail-biter for both sides. Despite leading at one point by 10, the Crusaders went into halftime up only two (34-32). Eleven turnovers contributed to that, although a 7-of-13 performance from beyond the arc kept SU in the game.
The lead swapped hands for the opening few possessions before Susquehanna went up by four (11-7) after less than five minutes of action. The Crusaders were able to make that a double-digit lead less than four minutes later when a Brendan Rezny (Sparta, N.J./Sparta) layup made it a 21-11 ballgame.
The Eagles countered with a 10-0 run of their own, knotting the game at 21 with 9:06 to play. SU went back up on its next possession, a Rezny jumper, and never again trailed in the half, but a bucket by Juniata's Kevin Stapleton with 1:07 cut the lead to 34-32, which remained the score at the midway point.
Six unanswered Juniata points opened the second half and handed the Eagles their first lead of the night (38-34); it was a lead they would not relinquish. A Wilson three-pointer brought the lead back down to one, 45-44, but that was the closest Susquehanna got for the remaining 13 minutes of action.
With just 3:28 left to play, Juniata's Nate Higgins made it a 16-point game (68-52) and the Eagles ended the half on a 7-0 run to clinch the win and a trip to the conference championship game on Saturday at No. 1 seed Scranton.
Spencer ends his career as SU's third all-time leading scorer with 1,544 points.