Freshman Matt LaCorte stole an inbound pass with less than three seconds to play and then hit a pair of free throws after being fouled to give the Susquehanna University Men's Basketball team to a 75-73 victory over Bethany College in the 2017-18 season opener Wednesday night on O.W. Houts Gymnasium in Selinsgrove.
Bethany (0-1) made a layup with 40 seconds left to take its first lead since early in the second half at 72-71 and then converted the back end of a two-shot foul to take a 73-73 lead.
Susquehanna (1-0) moved down the court and worked the ball into senior Ryan Traub who hit a five-foot jumper to knot the score at 73-73 with six seconds remaining.
Each team called a time out to map out strategy but LaCorte tipped and then stole the inbound pass and was almost immediately fouled.
The teams battled back and forth in the first half until the River Hawks went on a 12-2 run midway through the period to take a 21-11 lead. The Bison answered back with a similar run to tie the game at 23-23 over the next four minutes and the game remained close over the final seven minutes of the period with Bethany taking a 38-37 lead into the halftime break.
The Bison built a five-point lead at 44-39 early in the second half before Susquehanna went on a key 12-2 run. The run was sparked by Adam Dizbon who scored 10 of the 12 points in the run with four jumpers including a pair of 3-point shots.
After Bethany scored to slow the run, Dizbon answered with another 3-pointer to give the River Hawks an eight-point advantage at 56-48 with 12:21 left to play.
The Bison chipped away at the lead and had it down to a point at 58-57 at the 9:08 mark before Matt LaCorte made his first collegiate basket with a 3-pointer to spark a 9-2 run over the next three minutes as Susquehanna held a 67-59 lead with 6:41 left.
Bethany chipped away at the lead again and cut the advantage to 69-68 with 2:55 remaining to set up the exciting stretch run.
Calique Jones led all scorers with 25 points for Bethany while Traub added 24 pointsa nd Dizbon had 20 for the River Hawks. Zach Knecht and freshman Bryce Butler had eight points each and Knecht grabbed a team-leading eight rebounds. Tyler Hoagland and Dizbon had five assists each for Susquehanna.
The River Hawks return to action Friday and Saturday with the Susquehanna Trailways Tournament featuring Rowan and Albright in the 6 p.m. game and Susquehanna hosting King's in the 8 p.m. matchup. The consolation and championship games will be at 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday.