BY ELENA LUKE
A missed half-court heave at the buzzer secured the Barons’ third conference win, 66-65 against Penn St.-Altoona, finishing Franciscan University’s 6th Annual Kuzma Day on a high note.
“The biggest thing tonight?” head coach John Lamanna said. “We scored when we needed to score. We got stops when we needed to get stops. That was critical.”
After nearly 40 minutes of hard play and two free throws made by the Lions, only 12 seconds and one point separated the Barons and Altoona. FUS burned nine seconds with assertive ball movement, finding themselves at the foul line with 3.3 seconds left in regulation.
Despite missing the front end of the 1-1, the Barons’ ability to run off those nine seconds forced an Altoona half-court shot that bounced off the rim, spelling victory for Franciscan basketball.
Following their second close conference win in less than a week, Lamanna said he was pleased with the way his men handled the high-stress final moments of the game.
“Teams that have high character are able to handle adversity and that’s what we’ve been able to do,” Lamanna said.
This was also the second time FUS faced Altoona this season, the first matchup ending in an 83-79 loss due to turnover woes in the final four minutes of the game.
“We did a much better job taking care of the ball tonight,” Lamanna said, adding that sophomore point guard, Derek David played a large roll in bringing about some positive offensive movement.
“He’s able to bring a calming force to the game,” Lamanna said. “When he takes control he’s able to get the offense moving.”
David finished with no points, but an efficient six to two, assist-to-turnover margin, and also added two steals.
Tied for high score with 16 points each, were junior big man Joseph Rine and sophomore shooting guard Timmy Schenk. Rine currently ranks ninth in the NCAA for blocks per game and dominated down low with 8-10 shooting from the field, eight rebounds, and three blocks. Schenk, who shot 50 percent from the three-point line, is ranked near twentieth in the nation for three-point shots per game.
Lamanna said the win is an indication of the Barons’ progress throughout thepast few games.
“We’re operating well offensively in terms of decision-making, passing, and movement,” Lamanna said. “We’ve improved, but last time we won a game in conference play and went on the road, we struggled. The key is to learn from the past.”