SELINSGROVE, Pa. – One NCAA Tournament win is in the books for the 19th-ranked Susquehanna men's basketball team as SU defeated SUNY Old Westbury 77-73 in come-from-behind fashion on Friday night.
The Crusaders (24-4) did not lead until the 16-minute mark of the second half but once they took that lead it was for good.
Susquehanna now hosts No. 16 Babson College on Saturday, March 5 at 7 p.m. for a second-round matchup. Babson defeated Hartwick 89-60 in Friday's opening game.
"I thought it was a really hard-fought game," head coach Frank Marcinek said. "[SUNY Old Westbury] gave us everything we could handle. We're 1-0 today and that's all that matters."
Junior captain Steven Weidlich had 24 points, all of which came in the second half. Brandon Hedley added 20, 12 of which were from beyond the arc, and Ryan Traub finished with 11 points and nine rebounds (five offensive) in 28 minutes of work off the bench.
The Crusaders shot better than 47 percent from the floor and sank 48 percent of their three-point attempts. While the team turned the ball over 16 times, SU out-rebound the Panthers 36-31 and held SUNY Old Westbury (19-9) to 33 second-half points and a 31 percent effort from the floor.
The Panthers jumped out to an 11-3 after less than three minutes of play before an 8-0 SU run capped off by a Hedley three tied the game at 11 at the 15:29 mark.
SUNY Old Westbury led 21-16 with 12 minutes to play in the half and a layup from Traub at the 10:45 mark cut the lead to three (23-20). The Panthers increased their lead to 11 (25-36) with just over six minutes remaining in the half. However, the Crusaders went on a 9-1 run that ended with a Traub layup to whittle the lead to three (37-34).
The Panthers scored first in the second half to go up by six (43-37) but the Crusaders counered with a 10-3 run that was capped off by a Weidlich three to take the lead for the first time of the night at 47-45 with 15:59 remaining in the game.
Susquehanna increased its lead to seven (54-47) before SUNY Old Westbury cut it to two (56-53) at the 11:48 mark. A three-pointer from Dalton Reichard with 7:53 on the clock gave SU its largest lead of the night at nine (65-56) and even though the Panthers trimmed the lead to five (67-62) at the 5:10 mark, the Crusaders again led by nine on a pair of Hedley free throws with 37 seconds remaining in the game.