HUNTINGDON, Pa. – The University of Scranton men's basketball team used another strong defensive effort to take control, then held off a furious rally in the closing minutes to defeat Juniata, 64-61, on Saturday in Memorial Gymnasium for the Royals' fifth straight victory.
Scranton (16-5, 8-2 Landmark) built a double-digit lead in the second half, but held on as Juniata (11-10, 3-7 Landmark) cut a 10-point lead to three with seven seconds left, but the Eagles' 3-pointer to force overtime was off the mark just before the final horn.
The victory keeps the Royals in a first-place tie with Susquehanna in the Landmark Conference with four regular season games remaining. Catholic and Moravian are tied for third, a game back at 7-3 in conference play.
Junior guard Ethan Danzig (Clarks Green, Pa./Abington Heights) led Scranton with a team-high 16 points while hitting four of six 3-pointers. He also had six rebounds, a career-high four steals and two assists. Senior center John Vitkus (Mahopac, N.Y./Mahopac) finished with 13 points, six rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
Scranton took a 34-30 halftime lead as freshman Matthew Mancuso (Bridgewater, N.J./Bridgewater-Raritan) had nine points and junior guard Chris McCullough (Harborfields, N.Y./Greenlawn) had eight. McCullough hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first half and has now made at least one in 10 straight games.
The Royals eventually pushed the lead to 10 at 44-34 with 13:36 to play, thanks to a 10-4 run to start the half. The lead grew as big as 14 (54-40) when Danzig canned a 3-pointer at the 7:21 mark, and it was still 60-50 with 2:40 to play before Juniata rallied.
Scranton shot 45 percent (18-for-40) from the field, including 8-for-21 (38.1 percent) from beyond the arc. The Royals were 20-for-31 (64.5 percent) from the free throw line and committed just 12 turnovers while making 10 steals. They also held a 17-11 edge in points off turnovers.
Juniata shot 51 percent (26-for-51) from the field, including 4-for-14 (28.6 percent) from 3-point range. The Eagles were just 5-for-11 (45.5 percent) from the free throw line and committed 14 turnovers. They held a 28-14 edge in points in the paint and both teams had 29 rebounds.
Scranton will be back in action on Wednesday, Feb. 8, when the Royals host Drew in a Landmark Conference game at 7 p.m. in the Long Center.