HUNTINGDON, PA- Boosted by a large and boisterous crowd, the Juniata men's basketball team outscored Drew 38-26 in the second half to come away with a 68-58 victory on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Gymnasium. It was Shaq The House with honoree Shaquill Smith returning to campus for the first time since a serious illness in October sidelined him.
Juniata had its second-best shooting performance of the season at it was overall 28-of-53 (52.8%) from the floor. Marcus Lee (Carrolltown, PA/Bishop Carroll) led the Eagles with 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting and nearly had a double-double with nine rebounds. Nate Ogle (Falls Church, VA/George Mason) added 12 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Justin Fleming (Richmond, VA/Benedictine College Prep) chipped in 10 points and four rebounds.
The JC bench outscored the Ranger bench 18-9. Seth Brewer (Lancaster, PA/Manheim Township) had nine of those points for the Eagles.
The first eight minutes saw four lead changes and two ties. The game was tied up for the third time, 17-17, after a jumper by Ogle. The Rangers went on a brief run to go ahead 22-17 with 8:50 showing on the game clock.
"We came out early and set the tone," said head coach Greg Curley afterwards. "We traded baskets with them early but once we settled in, I thought we got into a defensive rhythm."
Juniata chipped away at the Drew advantage and led by three points, 28-25, after Lee sank two free throws. The Rangers came back to take the lead after a three-point shot from Jason Huelbig with 30 seconds left gave Drew a 32-30 at halftime.
It was a neck and neck game for the first nine minutes of the second half. Drew led 43-42 with exactly 11 minutes to play. A 15-5 run by the Eagles that covered over six minutes of game time gave them a 57-48 lead with 4:25 remaining in the contest.
It was a two-possession game at 2:55, 59-53, in Juniata's favor. With 1:31 remaining to play, Brewer nailed a trey to put JC up by nine again, 62-53. The basket proved to be huge as the Rangers could get no closer than seven points and the Eagles came out as the victors.
"I thought it was our most complete game particularly defensively," said Curley after the game. "That's a team (Drew) that is leading the league in offense and we held them to 58 points. "
The Eagle travel to Selinsgrove on Wednesday to face Susquehanna. Game time will be at 7 p.m.