BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The University of Scranton men's basketball team answered the challenge on Wednesday night. Facing a team with which it was tied for first place and had lost two just 14 days earlier, the Royals used two big runs and a strong defensive effort to defeat Moravian, 69-61, at Johnston Hall in a Landmark Conference matchup.
The Royals (15-5, 7-2 Landmark) have won four straight since losing to the Greyhounds (13-7, 6-3 Landmark) two weeks ago. Scranton is now tied for first place with Susquehanna, a game ahead of Moravian, with five games remaining in the regular season.
Senior center John Vitkus (Mahopac, N.Y./Mahopac) continued his dominant play of late, finishing with 23 points on 9-for-12 from the field, and added eight rebounds, three blocks, two assists and a steal. In the past four games, he is averaging 20.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 blocks while shooting 72.9 percent (35-for-48) from the field.
Junior guard Kevin Doolan (Basking Ridge, N.J./Ridge) added 13 points, four assists, four rebounds and just one turnover in 35 minutes, and junior forward Drew Schankweiler (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Mechanicsburg) had 12 points, four rebounds and two assists.
In the first matchup two weeks ago in Scranton, the Greyhounds made 12 of 16 3-point attempts and shot 49 percent from the field overall in a 78-64 win. Wednesday night was a different story, as the Royals held Moravian to just 6-for-17 from beyond the arc and 45.8 percent (22-for-48) overall from the field.
The first of Scranton's two key runs came toward the end of the first half. After a tightly contested opening 13 minutes, the Royals went on a 12-0 run to turn a 27-26 lead into a 39-26 advantage. Doolan started the spurt with a 3-pointer and Vitkus had five points during the run, which helped Scranton take a 39-29 halftime lead.
Moravian fought back, though, and tied the game at 51 with just under 11 minutes to play. The game was still tied at 53 with 9:46 to play when Scranton used a 9-1 run to regain control. Junior Chris McCullough (Harborfields, N.Y./Greenlawn) made a 3-pointer – his ninth straight game connecting from long range – and Vitkus had three points in the spurt.
The run gave the Royals a 62-54 edge with 7:39 left and Moravian got no closer than five and scored only eight points the rest of the way.
Scranton finished the night shooting 56.3 percent (27-for-48) from the field, including 5-for-10 from 3-point range. The Royals have now shot at least 50 percent in seven of their last nine games and 11 times in total. They made just 10 of 24 free throw attempts, but overcame that by committing just nine turnovers. Scranton also scored 40 points in the paint and held a 16-6 edge in points off turnovers.
The Royals will return to action on Saturday, Feb. 4, when they travel to Huntingdon, Pa. to take on Juniata in a Landmark Conference game at 4 p.m.