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Juniata MBB upsets regular-season champ Susquehanna; will face Scranton for Landmark title

(Posted February 27, 2008)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Twice this regular season, the Juniata College men's basketball team dropped close games to Susquehanna University. That was far from the case Wednesday night as the fourth-seeded Eagles trounced their long-time rivals 77-49, upsetting the regular season champion Crusaders in a Landmark Conference Men's Basketball Tournament semifinal game at Houts Gymnasium in Selinsgrove, Pa. 'Trounced' may be putting it mildly. Juniata (17-9) shot .574 (27-47) from the field, second-best shooting performance this season, while holding the Crusaders (13-12) to just .291 (16-55) shooting for Juniata's second-best defensive effort of 2007-08. The 28-point margin of victory was the Eagles' largest of this season, as was the +15 rebounding margin. With the victory, Juniata advances to the Landmark Conference tournament title game against the University of Scranton on Saturday, March 1, in Scranton, Pa. The third-seeded Royals knocked off second-seeded Moravian College 79-78 on Wednesday night's other Landmark semifinal match. Juniata put its mark on this game early, storming out to a 12-1 lead by the 15:13 mark of the opening half. Senior forward Brian Cannon (Fallston, Md./Fallston), who earlier in the day was named Second team All-Conference despite being the league's second-highest scorer and fifth-best rebounder, scored three of Juniata's first four field goals on his way to a game-high 21 points. Susquehanna responded with a pair of three-pointers by Brad Okonak and Andy Gaebel, scored around a Cannon foul shot after he was fouled by the Crusaders' Kevin Cuff. A Cuff layup cut the Juniata lead down to 13-9 by the 13:50 mark, but that would prove to be the closest Susquehanna would get to catching Juniata all evening. The Eagles' Justin Baker (Nanty Glo, Pa./Bishop Carroll) responded with a jumper, followed quickly by a Jeff Berkey (Stoystown, Pa./Shanksville-Stonycreek) steal and subsequent three-pointer. A steal by David Thompson (Altoona, Pa./Altoona) led to another Berkey bucket, with Garrett Bull (Red Lion, Pa./Red Lion) punctuating Juniata's 10-0 run with a three-pointer give the Eagles a 23-9 lead with over 11 minutes remaining in the first half. Juniata's lead breached the 20-point mark with 1:10 left in the opening frame on a Cannon jumper, sending the Eagles into the break with a 42-21 lead. Susquehanna carved a huge chuck out of that Eagle lead in the first seven minutes of the second half, thanks to a 14-2 Crusader run. Juniata went scoreless over the first five minutes of the second stanza, with Cannon breaking the drought with his layup at the 14:50 mark. A layup by Susquehanna's Sean Ulichny cut the Eagle lead to nine points, 44-35, with 13:28 remaining. The margin remained nine points after a Brent Ferko (Sarver, Pa./Freeport) jumper followed by a pair of foul shots by Ulichny. Berkey extended Juniata's advantage back into double-digits with his three-pointer at the 11:28 mark, the first of back-to-back-to-back treys by Berkey and Eric Mueseler (Latrobe, Pa./Latrobe) that left the Eagles with a 55-37 lead with 10:43 on the clock. An 11-2 run later in the second half allowed the Eagles to stretch their lead to 68-41 by the 4:56 mark. Juniata's lead reached its zenith at 29 points, 75-49, after a pair of Cannon foul shots with just 2:03 remaining. Four players scored in double-figures, with the Eagle reserves responsible for 40 points. Bull finished with 14 points off the bench, with Berkey and Mueseler totaling 13 and 11 points respectively. Cannon had a team-high eight rebounds. Joel Patch paced the Susquehanna offense with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Crusaders managed just eight field goals in each half, and their 12 turnovers led directly to 18 Juniata points. -30-

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.