(Posted January 10, 2007)

SELINSGROVE, Pa. - In a back-and-forth contest the Juniata men\'s basketball team came up just a few players short as the Eagles dropped a 63-61 decision to Susquehanna University Wednesday night in Selinsgrove. Juniata fell to 6-8 overall and 0-3 in the conference with the loss, while the Crusaders are 10-4 and 2-1 in conference play. Juniata overcame a hot early start by the home team, and held a lead with 4:41 remaining before the Crusaders took a 52-51 lead on a dunk by Joel Patch. Another Patch hoop and two free throws from each team had Susquehanna\'s lead at three before Juniata\'s Kyle Opitz (Pine-Richland/Gibsonia) drilled a three to tie the score at 56 with 2:24 remaining. Zac Smith knocked down a three for Susquehanna on the next possession, but the Eagles countered again with Nick Hager (Franklin/Franklin) drilling a triple with 1:19 left to tie the score for a sixth time. Susquehanna pulled in front again on the ensuing trip when Smith converted a layup to give the home team a 61-59 lead. Juniata got three shots at tying the score on its next trip as the team pulled in a pair of offensive rebounds, but the shots would not go. A pair of free throws from Patch pushed the lead to four with 10 seconds remaining. Brent Ferko (Freeport/Sarver) scored with two seconds left to pull the Eagles within one, and Juniata had one final chance as Hager stole the long inbounds pass, but his last-second heave fell short. Brian Cannon (Fallston/Fallston, Md.) scored 17 points to lead Juniata, while Opitz was also in double figures with 12 points. The Crusaders shot 51 percent from the field in the game, including 63 percent in the second half as they were 12 of 19 from the field. Susquehanna got a game-high 23 points from Kevin Cuff who helped the Crusaders storm out to a 10-point lead at 14-4 in the opening six minutes of the game. Juniata slowly chipped away at the lead, eventually claiming their first lead on a Dave Thompson (Altoona/Altoona) bucket with 6:51 left in the first half. Susquehanna reclaimed the edge and finally took a three-point edge into halftime. The teams traded the lead back-and-forth throughout the second half, with Susquehanna leading by as many as six, while Juniata had a lead of four points as one point in the second stanza. The second half featured five ties and four lead changes. Hager added eight points for Juniata in the game. Chris Jasiota (Oil City/Oil City) paced the team with eight rebounds and Optiz and Aaron Chamberlain (Tussey Mountain/Wood) each had four assists. Cuff was 8 for 13 from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds. Patch matched him with eight boards, and also matched Bryan Majors with a team-best three assists. Juniata will be on the road again Saturday as the Eagles face Commonwealth foe Moravian. ###

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