HUNTINGDON, PA – The men's basketball team led from start to finish and held off visiting Elizabethtown for a 56-46 victory on Thursday night at Memorial Gymnasium. The win, which snapped the Eagles four-game winless streak, also was the team's first victory in Landmark play. Juniata avenged its 62-52 defeat at the hands of the Blue Jays back on December 2.
Much like their game against Goucher two nights ago, the Eagles got off to a strong start as they went ahead 10-2. The Blue Jays fought their way back to get to within two points of tying it up, 10-8, at 12:27.
The score stood at 14-10 at the 9:55 mark after a layup from the Blue Jays' Tyler Simpkiss. The Juniata defense clamped down as it held E-Town without a basket for 7:21 of game time. A 9-0 run during that span by the offense expanded the Eagle lead to 13 points, 23-10, at 2:34.
The Blue Jays ended their scoring drought with a basket from Simpkiss and eventually knocked the deficit down to six points with just under a minute to play in the half. Juniata went into halftime with a nine-point lead after Trevor Clune (Meadville, PA/Meadville Area) knocked down a trey with 30 seconds left as JC led 26-17. Clune had a solid first half for JC with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting and was good on three of four three-point attempts.
Juniata's lead was 28-19 early in the second half. Elizabethtown slowly chipped away at the Eagle advantage and eventually tied it up at 35-all after a traditional three-point play from E-Town's Evan Hathaway.
The Eagles went back ahead and led 40-35 after a three-point shot from Damon Rickens (Altoona, PA/Bishop Guilfoyle) with just under 10 minutes left to play. The Blue Jays again tied the contest up at 40-all with 6:36 remaining in the game.
JC embarked on its game-turning run with nine straight points to put distance between themselves and the Blue Jays as it went up 49-40 at 2:20. E-Town was able to get to within six points, 49-43, with 2:04 to play but the Eagles converted seven of eight free throw attempts down the stretch to seal the victory.
Clune finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Kyle Koehler (Chester Springs, PA/Devon Prep) added 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting and picked up four rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Head coach Greg Curley singled out Clune, Koehler, and Dennis Fisher (Bellefonte, PA/Bald Eagle Area) (7p, 3a, 2 reb) for their performances on the night.
Juniata shot just over 45% from the floor (20-of-44) to Elizabethtown's 41.3% (19-of-46). The Eagles had their second-best performance from beyond the three-point arc as they were good on 42.1% (8-of-19) of their shots.
Curley was proud of his team following the win and how they stuck together. He pointed out the defensive effort as Juniata held Elizabethtown to their lowest point total to date this season. Coming into tonight, the Blue Jays were averaging 64 points per game.
Juniata will look to make it two in a row when they host Eastern University on Saturday in a non-conference matchup. Game time from Memorial Gymnasium will be at 4 p.m.