University of Pittsburgh Bradford
Lions top Panthers 69-57 in defensive battle
Tyler Fantaskey
Junior Tyler Fantaskey

The Pitt-Bradford men’s basketball team dropped a hard fought defensive battle to the Penn State Behrend Lions, 69-57, on Thursday, Jan. 23. Despite having four players score in double figures, the Panthers were unable to generate enough offensive production to outlast the Lions.

Senior Brandon McClester finished with a team-high 13 points and three rebounds. Junior Tyler Fantaskey was close behind with 11 points and one rebound. The strong effort by Fantaskey marked his fifth-straight performance scoring in double figures.

Sophomore Eric Matheson ended his night with 10 points, four rebounds and one assist, while freshman Zach Smith tallied 10 points and four rebounds.

Pitt-Bradford (9-8, 5-5) left little doubt that it came to play after putting the first points on the board and controlling the momentum of the game for the first several minutes of play.

The Panthers owned the lead for the first eight minutes of action. At that time, the Lions’ Mike Knoll landed a basket off a short jumper that gave Penn State Behrend its first lead of the game, 10-9.

That lead was short lived as Smith nailed a three-point shot. He then grabbed a steal and landed yet another three-point shot just moments later. The back-to-back triples gave the Panthers a small lead for several minutes.

The Lions were able to string together several points to steal the lead from the Panthers with just five minutes remaining in the first half. Matheson, McClester and Fantaskey each finished the first half with buckets for the Panthers to bring the score to a 25-25 tie as the teams headed to the locker room.

Pitt-Bradford finished the first half shooting 29 percent from the floor, including 40 percent from behind the arc. The Panthers were 3-of-4 from the line.

The Lions shot 39.3 percent from the field, including just 12.5 percent from behind the three-point line. They were 2-of-4 from the charity stripe.

Penn State Behrend (14-2, 8-1) opened the scoring in the second half with back-to-back free-throw attempts on a Colton Holzwarth foul.

McClester drew his own foul just seconds later and connected on both free-throw shots to bring the score back to even.

The momentum seemed to shift in the Lions’ favor following the free-throw attempts from McClester. Penn State Behrend’s offense found its rhythm and the Panthers would not lead for the remainder of the contest.

Although Pitt-Bradford fell behind, it never seemed to lose control. With 9:53 remaining in the game, the Panthers forced a tie before the Lions were able to begin to build a lead. Penn State Behrend inched its way to a 10-point advantage with just 46 seconds left in regulation.

The time left was not enough for a comeback attempt by the Panthers, and a dunk by Shane Skelly for the Lions finished the game and equaled the final score.

“They are a very good team and against very good teams you have to take advantage of every opportunity,” said head coach Britt Moore. “We couldn’t secure the defensive rebounds consistently and missed layup opportunities.”

The Panthers finished the night shooting 33.9 percent from the floor, including 31.9 percent from behind the arc. They were 14-of-20 from the charity stripe.

Penn State Behrend ended the game shooting 47.1 percent from the floor, including 23.5 percent from behind the three-point line. The Lions were 17-of-24 from the free-throw line.

Pitt-Bradford returns to the hardwood on Saturday, Jan. 25. The Panthers travel to Altoona, Pa., to take on Penn State Altoona at 1 p.m.