MADISON, N.J. – Trailing by 20 points with 11 minutes remaining in regulation in Thursday night's Landmark Conference men's basketball semifinal at Drew, The University of Scranton rallied to within three points in the final minute, but ultimately fell to the Rangers, 75-69.
The top-seeded Rangers improve to 21-5 on the season and advanced to Saturday's Landmark Conference championship game where they will host second-seeded Moravian, who defeated Susquehanna 91-73 in Thursday's other semifinal contest.
Junior Matthew Mancuso (Bridgewater, N.J./Bridgewater-Raritan) had a huge game for the Royals (20-6) in Thursday's defeat, racking up his 11th double-double of the season with 20 points and a game-high 15 rebounds while also leading all players with five blocked shots. His 15 boards matched a career-high.
Freshman Jackson Danzig (Clarks Green, Pa./Abington Heights) added 18 points while junior Kyle DeVerna (Rockville Centre, N.Y./Kellenberg Memorial) scored 11 points and dished out a game-high seven assists, matching a career-high, in the loss.
Drew used a 10-1 run over six and a half minute span midway through the first half of Thursday's game to open up a 23-12 advantage. Scranton pulled to within four points at 33-29 with 2:45 remaining in the opening stanza following a 10-4 surge, but the Rangers were able to restore their double-figure advantage at halftime by netting the final six points of the period to take a 39-29 lead into the break.
Scranton trimmed its deficit to six points early in the second half before Drew used a 21-7 burst to open up a seemingly comfortable 62-42 cushion at the 10:59 mark of the stanza.
The Royals were not about to let their championship hopes go away without a fight as the visitors scored the next nine points to pull within 11 at the 7:18 mark.
With the Rangers holding a 67-55 advantage with 4:47 left on the clock, Mancuso scored seven straight points to bring Scranton to within five points, 67-62 with 3:17 remaining.
Following a Drew field goal, freshman Jack Brockett (Shamong, N.J./Seneca) knocked down a pair of free throws before sophomore Logan Bailey (Scranton, Pa./Scranton Prep) scored on a layup with 51 seconds remaining to bring Scranton to within three points at 69-66.
Despite the valiant comeback bid, Scranton was unable to come any closer as the Rangers went made all six of their free throws the rest of the way to hold on for the victory.
Scranton shot a solid 53.3 percent from the floor in the loss including a 59.1 percent clip in the second half. The Royals also went 40 percent from three-point range while converting 65.2 percent of their free throw attempts.
Drew finished the evening shooting 49.1 percent from the floor, 37.5 percent from beyond the arc, and 71.4 percent from the charity stripe. The Rangers were also plus-six (14-20) in the turnover department whiled holding a narrow, 29-28 edge in rebounding.
Scranton will hope to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament when the field being announced on Monday at 12:30 p.m., though the Royals are likely considered longshots for a bid after falling out of the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Region rankings that were announced on Wednesday.