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Lions Down Hawks in 65-61 Thriller

Final Score

St. Joe's 61
Penn State 65

Boxscore Here

Game Recap

With 1:20 to play and trailing the visiting Hawks 60-52 on the scoreboard, I hardly think the Nittany Lions were telling themselves "We have them right where we want them." But some clutch free throws mixed in with some three point shots, a dash of tough rebounding, a controversial block and a technical foul to cap a furious 13-1 run and the Lions were skipping off the court with a 65-61 victory over St. Joe's.

Morrissey banks a three with 25 seconds to go
The rally started with Brandon Hassell, who had a career high 14 points, hitting two free throws. On the other end Hawk freshman guard D.J. Rivera missed the front end of a one-and-one. Geary Claxton, who saw his first action of the season since breaking a bone in his hand in the exhibition against Edinboro, pulled down the rebound. Danny Morrissey was fouled and hit both of his shots to pull the game to 60-56 with 0:50 to go. Another St. Joe's freshman, Jawan Carter, was fouled and missed the front end of his one-and-one. Hassell pulled down the rebound and the Lions ran up court. Morrissey gave a head fake and hit a three points shot to pull Penn State within one point and the surprisingly good sized Thanksgiving weekend crowd of over 8600 jumped to life.

Mooch fouled Nivins on the inbounds and he hit one of two shots to put the Hawks back up by two. At the other end Morrissey hit another three this time banking it in from the top of the key to put the Lions up by one, 62-61.

St. Joe's called a timeout to set up an inside play to Nivins. On the play Cornley and Hassell got caught in a switch giving Nivins a clear shot at the basket, but as Cornley said after the game, Claxton "came from out of nowhere" to block the shot. Cornley jumped on the ball but was tied up. The possession arrow went to Penn State.

Mooch was fouled on the inbounds play with 1.9 seconds on the clock. St. Joe's head coach, Phil Martelli, got in an argument with the official about the preceding play arguing that Nivins was fouled. He drew a technical and Luber hit both shots. Then Mooch hit one of his shots to end the scoring and cap off a thrilling 65-61 win.

Breaking It Down

The story of the game was the return of Geary Claxton. By all accounts he was rusty after not playing basketball for three weeks as evident by his 4 turnovers. He played 19 minutes and finished with 6 points and 5 rebounds, but he came to life in the last five minutes of the game hitting some clutch free throws, some big rebounds, and the hustling defensive effort to block the Nivins shot.

Martelli was still fuming after the game. First Martelli had the following to say:

It was a tough call. It hurts. I'm not going to complain. You've got to play through it. I'm not going to criticize the refs.

Then Martelli went on to...um...not criticize the refs.

Ahmad Nivins got fouled. We just watched it on tape, and he got fouled. It's on tape and the guy blew the call.

...we got cheated at the end.

He's is getting paid to do his job. The guy didn't do his job in the last five seconds, and it's a damn shame. (Nivins) got grabbed by the kid in the lane as he was going up. They are not supposed to be involved in the outcome of the game. That guy chose to be involved in the outcome of the game.

But he's not criticizing the refs or anything.

Regardless of the drama, this was a huge win for the Lions. I'll be honest here. When I looked at the schedule and I saw this three game stretch with Bucknell, St. Joe's, and GA Tech I thought those would be three losses when I predicted 10 wins on the out of conference schedule. Now we have won two out of these three games, one without Claxton and the other with half a Claxton. After the Stony Brook debacle I said we had to go out and steal one from a better team to make up for it. Consider us even.

With his front court mate back to draw the attention, Jamell Cornley was back to his old self recording his third double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Next Up

The Lions will travel to Georgia Tech to face the 5-1 Yellow Jackets in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge on Tuesday. Tech is coming off their first loss of the season to #5 UCLA in the final of the Maui Invitational. The Yellow Jackets are currently ranked #19 in the country.