(Posted February 16, 2008)

MADISON, N.J. ?" Junior forward David Thompson's (Altoona, Pa./Altoona) 18-point effort, including 13 in the second half, helped carry Juniata College past Drew University, 58-48, in Landmark Conference men's basketball action Saturday night in Madison, N.J. The win inched Juniata (15-8, 8-4 Landmark) closer to locking up a slot in the upcoming Landmark Conference tournament, which begins Wednesday, Feb. 27. The Eagles needed a win over Drew coupled with a Susquehanna University win over the United States Merchant Marine Academy on Saturday evening, but Merchant Marine took advantage of the home court to upset the Crusaders, 87-68. Juniata will face USMMA on Sunday, Feb. 17, at 4:00 p.m., with an Eagle victory securing a conference tournament berth. The Eagles kept Drew bottled up defensively in the first, holding the Rangers to just 21.7% (5-23) shooting from the field while cruising to a 23-12 halftime lead. Drew didn't score its first basket until the 16:48 mark of the opening frame, when Mike Mayes ended the shutout with a layup; the Rangers didn't add to their lead for nearly another seven minutes when Joe Horvath hit a three-pointer. Juniata held a 15-5 lead at that point, with the Eagles getting treys from Jeff Berkey (Stoystown, Pa./Shanksville-Stonycreek) and Eric Mueseler (Latrobe, Pa./Latrobe) early in the first half. The Rangers shot a little better in the second half ?" 33.3% (12-36) over the final 20 minutes ?" but Juniata scorched the nets with a 55.6% (10-18) shooting percentage in the second stanza, and maintained a double-digit lead through much of the half. Juniata's lead was cut to four points, 26-22, after the Rangers opened the second half with a 10-3 run, but Thompson responded with a jumper to expand the lead to 28-22. Only a few minutes later, back-to-back buckets by Dave Pepperman and Mike Mayes cut the Eagle lead to 29-26; another Thompson jumper and a traditional three-point play by Berkey quickly extended the Juniata lead to 34-26 by the 13:48 mark. Brian Cannon's (Fallston, Md./Fallston) jumper nearly two minutes later put the Eagle lead back into double figures with 11:58 remaining. Juniata's advantage reached its widest at 14 points, 57-43, with 1:37 remaining following a three-pointer by Kyle Opitz (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine Richland). Cannon finished with 14 points, while Opitz chipped in with 12. Justin Baker (Nanty Glo, Pa./Bishop Carroll) didn't score, but did pull down a team-high seven rebounds. Drew was paced by Mayes with 17 points, while Chris Lopez logged a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Pepperman had a game-high 15 rebounds, including nine on the offensive glass, as the Rangers outrebounded Juniata 39-26. Drew's 23-5 advantage in offensive rebounds translated to a 16-3 edge in second-chance points. -30-

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