MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – It had been nearly a month since Penn State Harrisburg faced a North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) opponent. After SUNYIT paid a visit to the Capital Union Building on Saturday, Jan. 5, the Lions' league record looked exactly as it did before the new year: unblemished.
The Blue and White took care of the visitors 86-77, handed the Wildcats their ninth loss of the year and improved to 3-0 in NEAC play.
Junior Will Doyle (Franklin, Va. / Tidewater Academy) had a stellar outing and just missed recording his first-career triple-double. The versatile guard scored eight points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished-out a game-high ten assists.
Freshman Arick Sodini (Manalapan, N.J. / St. John Vianney) was the Lions' high-point man with a career-high 17 while senior Thristan Lundy (Philadelphia, Pa. / Samuel Fels) was a force inside, scoring 15 points and collecting seven rebounds.
Sodini was red hot to begin the game, accounting for ten of the team's first 16 points and when freshman Jamaal DuBose (Bowie, Md. / Bowie) knocked down a three-ball to push Harrisburg's advantage to 28-13 with just under eight minutes left in the first half, the Lions looked to be on the verge of running away it.
To the Wildcats' credit, they did not roll over. SUNYIT used a 20-10 run to close out the half and get back into the game.
The visitors continued their comeback push after the break and tied the contest at 43-all when Alex Drake hit a jumper from beyond the arc with 15:59 left in regulation.
Then, leading 51-49, Penn State Harrisburg started to buckle down defensively and turn those crucial stops into points on the other end.
Senior Jordan Gatchell (Manheim, Pa. / Manheim Central) scooped a layup in the lane. Sophomore big man Kevin Icker (Scranton, Pa. / Scranton Prep) knocked down a jumper from the corner on the Lions' next possession. Fellow sophomore Alberto De Los Santos (Enola, Pa. / East Pennsboro) connected on a jumper of his own next time down the floor.
When SUNYIT cut the deficit to five a few possessions later, sharpshooting sophomore Ethan Strayer (East Petersburg, Pa. / Hempfield) buried a three to swing the momentum back in Harrisburg's favor.
Lundy connected on five of six free throws down the stretch to keep the Wildcats from drawing any closer, effectively stomping out any hope the visitors had of picking up the win in their conference-opener.
The Lions got a nice lift from their bench. Icker went 6-8 from the field on his way to 13 points and two blocks in just 16 minutes of play. Dubose and Strayer were deadly from downtown. Each young man netted six points, all coming from beyond the arc.
De Los Santos eclipsed the double-digit scoring mark with ten tallies and found his teammates all game long as evidenced by his nine assists. Fresh off scoring his 1,000th career point just three nights earlier, Gatchell played all but three minutes and added nine notches.
Harrisburg shot 50 percent from three-point land while SUNYIT managed just 15.4 percent in the same category. The most telling statistic came in the area of ball distribution as the Blue and White assisted on 24 buckets compared to just ten by the Wildcats.
With the victory, the Lions improved to 6-8 on the year and tightened their hold on the NEAC's South Division top spot. Penn State Harrisburg gets a week off before the team travels north to take on league rivals Wells and Keuka on Saturday, Jan. 12 and Sunday, Jan. 13.