HUNTINGDON, PA- Juniata trailed by only one point with just over six and a half minutes left in the game but visiting Susquehanna outscored the Eagles 10-0 to come out with a 72-61 win on Wednesday night at Memorial Gymnasium. The loss brings Juniata's record to 7-8 overall and 1-5 in the Landmark while the Crusaders improve to 11-4 overall and 4-2 in the conference.
Damon Rickens (Altoona, PA/Bishop Guilfoyle) sank a three-point shot with 6:37 remaining on the clock to make it 62-61 Susquehanna. The Juniata offense then went cold down the stretch as the team went 0-for-7 despite only committing one turnover.
"I thought we got good looks down that stretch and didn't make them when we needed to," said head coach Greg Curley afterwards. "I'm really proud of our effort and thought we played really hard to get back into the game."
The game started off well for JC as the two teams were neck and neck with each other. The Eagles led 14-12 after Kyle Koehler (Chester Springs, PA/Devon Prep) hit a three-pointer with 15:05 on the clock. SU then went on a 13-0 run, aided by three straight three-point baskets, to go up 25-14 at 11:13.
Juniata fought back with an 11-2 run to get to within two points, 27-25, with 6:38 showing on the clock. The Crusaders, however, went on a 16-7 run to close out the half and went into the locker room with a 45-34 advantage. "I didn't think it was a very good defense effort in the first half and we have got to be better and more consistent across the board," said Curley
Susquehanna started the second half with a trey from Brandon Hedley to increase its lead to 48-34. The Eagles halved the deficit to seven points at 16:55 but again the Crusaders would lurch forward to 14 points, 45-59, with 11:45 showing on the clock.
The Eagles showed their resiliency with a 16-3 run that spanned just over five minutes of game time to get to 62-61. Rickens scored eight straight points for Juniata during that run. The one-point deficit would be as close as JC would get as the Crusaders held Juniata scoreless over the last 6:37 to pull out the win.
Rickens led Juniata with a season-high 13 points. He also added four rebounds. Justin Fleming (Richmond, VA/Benedictine College Prep) added 12 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Koehler and Marcus Lee (Carrolltown, PA/Bishop Carroll) both added 10 points and five rebounds.
The Eagles bench outscored Susquehanna's 27-12 and JC enjoyed a 22-20 advantage in the paint. The difference maker came on points off of turnovers where the Crusaders outscored the Eagles 20-7 and on second chance points, 16-9.
Susquehanna shot 48.2% (27-of-56) from the field while Juniata was good on 45.5% (25-of-55) of its attempts. SU did most of its damage from beyond the three-point arc as hit 50% (13-of-26) of its shots to the Eagles' 31.8% (7-of-22).
The Eagles complete their four-game homestand on Saturday then they host the Merchant Marine Academy. Game time will be at 4 p.m.