KINGS POINT, NY- A rough first half start put the Juniata men's basketball team in an early hole that ultimately it could not recover from as host Merchant Marine defeated the Eagles 50-43 on Saturday afternoon. The loss drops Juniata to 11-12 overall and 5-9 in the Landmark Conference. The Mariners are now 7-15 overall and 4-9 in the Landmark.
The Eagles shot 27.7% (13-of-47) from the floor on the day and was only good on 11.1% (2-of-18) of their attempts from beyond the three-point arc. Merchant Marine was good on 38.6% (17-of-44) of its shots and only converted 30.8% (4-of-13) of its three-point attempts.
The Mariners hit back-to-back three-point shots to go ahead 6-0 in the opening minutes of the first half. Kyle Koehler (Chester Springs, PA/Devon Prep) responded for the Eagles with a trey of his own to knock the Merchant Marine lead to 6-3 at 17:11. A jump shot from Marcus Lee (Carrolltown, PA/Bishop Carroll) got JC to within one point, 6-5, at the 15:23 mark.
A basket from USMMA's Scott Dennin upped the Mariner advantage to 8-5. That started a 9-0 run for the home team as Merchant Marine increased its lead to 15-5 with 6:49 remaining the half. The Eagles went over nine minutes of game time without a bucket.
The Juniata drought ended with 6:05 left in the first frame on a jumper from Damon Rickens (Altoona, PA/Bishop Guilfoyle). That kick-started a brief 6-0 spurt by JC that got it to within four points, 15-11, with just under five minutes showing on the game clock. The Mariners, however, would outscore the Eagles 6-2, with the final basket coming with 1:47 to play, as the teams went into the half with Merchant Marine leading 21-13.
A 10-4 Juniata run to begin the second half got the Eagles to within four points, 27-23, at 13:36. The Mariners extended their lead to 10 points, 33-23, at 11:39. The Eagles would fight back with six straight points to get to within five, 33-29, at the 9:19 mark.
Merchant Marine began to put some distance between itself and the Eagles as its lead grew to 43-31 with 5:46 left to play in the game. Another six-point spurt from JC got the Eagles back in the game as the score stood at 43-38 with 2:57 remaining on the clock. That was as close as Juniata would get as the Mariners outscored the Eagles 7-5 down the stretch to seal the victory.
Lee led Juniata with eight points and also pulled down five rebounds. Rickens added seven points and six rebounds. The Eagles had big contributions from their bench as they scored 23 points to just eight points for the Mariners.
Juniata returns to Memorial Gymnasium to host #16 Catholic on Wednesday. Game time will be at 7 p.m.