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Jones' 23 leads mens' hoops past Crusaders in conference opener

(Posted December 5, 2009)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. - Twenty-four trips to the foul line and 56% shooting in the second half helped aide the Juniata College mens' basketball team past archrival Susquehanna University, 68-62, on Saturday evening in the Kennedy Sports and Recreation Center.

It was the 165th meeting between the two programs, dating back to the 1908-09 season. This was the first regular season victory for the Eagles over the Crusaders since the inception of the Landmark Conference three years ago. Their only other victory came in a semifinal bout in 2008.

Juniata (5-3, 1-0) found themselves down by 10 halfway through the first half before an 11-0 run gave them a lead with 6:08 remaining. The Eagles extended their lead to six when freshman Alex Raymond (Hollidaysburg, Pa./Altoona) nailed a three pointer with 3:08 left to play.

They went into the locker room up three, after a long 23 foot three pointer was good by Spenser Spencer of Susquehanna (2-3, 0-1) at the buzzer.

The home team jumped out to a nine-point advantage early in the second half before Susquehanna stormed back to take the lead on a three pointer by Bryan Majors with 12:44 to play. The Crusaders held onto that lead until a layup by senior Jeff Berkey (Stoystown, Pa./Shanksville-Stonycreek) put the Eagles ahead once again with 5:44 left in regulation.

The teams traded baskets the next two possessions and were on the seesaw but it was a steal and the ensuing fast break dunk by sophomore Matt Regan (Downingtown, Pa./Devon Prep) that seemed to turn the momentum in favor of the Eagles.

Berkey hit one of his two three pointers at the 17:08 mark to put the Eagles up three, the last lead change of the game. Juniata hit 5-6 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

The keys to the game, according to head coach Greg Curley, was three fold.

"The best thing we did tonight was we got to the free throw line. We got to the line 24 times to their two, that was the difference maker." Curley went on, "the team played their hearts out, we refused to lose that game; they played with a lot of guts. We didn't play particularly well, but anytime you have a young team and can pull out a win like this, it's a good thing."

Senior Ryan Jones (Coudersport, Pa./Coudersport) led all scorers with 23 points on 5-9 shooting in his first start of the season. Three of his made baskets were from three-point territory. He also got to the charity stripe 11 times, sinking 10. He grabbed six rebounds in his 32 minutes of game time.

Sophomore Austin Ankney (Somerset, Pa./Somerset) and Raymond were second on the team with nine points each. They also pulled down five rebounds a piece.

As a team, the Eagles out rebounded the Crusaders 31-18. Of the 31 rebounds, 12 were on the offensive glass, leading to the Eagles outscoring the Crusaders in second chance points, 20-4.

Majors led Susquehanna with 21 points, hitting 5-9 from beyond the three-point arc. Altogether he was 8-12 from the field with four rebounds. Spencer was also in double figures with 11.

It is the first time since the 2005-2006 season that the team starts conference play 1-0. The last win was also against Susquehanna, when both teams were a part of the Commonwealth Conference.

The Eagles return to the court Tuesday, Dec. 8, on the road at Lycoming College. They do not return home until after the New Year, on January 2, when they battle the Lions of Penn State Altoona.

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