The Franciscan men’s basketball team couldn’t complete the comeback late against visiting Penn State-Behrend, falling 61-49 to its conference opponent in a 2 p.m. Saturday Finnegan Fieldhouse matchup.
The Barons led for the vast majority of the first half, bolstered by solid interior defense, forcing Behrend into long-range threes from well beyond the arc. On the offensive side of the ball, Franciscan was aided by seven points from sophomore guard Aaron Foldi, among them a sweet, contested three-point dagger to provide the Barons with their initial lead.
With just over six minutes to play in the first half, Behrend tied the game at 16-16, after a defensive communications error provided Penn State with an easy layup. Junior forward Juwan Perkins added three of his eight points on a step back jumper. Sophomore guard John Noce made the most of limited first half minutes with two points from just inside the free throw line, putting the Barons up 21-20 with 4:29 to play.
The Lions found enough interior penetration to accrue a 26-25 lead by the time the halftime buzzer sounded, bolstered by dominant defensive rebounding and three successive missed shots from Franciscan’s offense.
After a halftime performance from student baton-twirler Clarice Orteza, freshman guard Sean Hickey contributed three more from beyond the arc, allowing Franciscan to retake a 28-26 lead. Hickey added a layup five minutes later to eat into a small Behrend lead, as the Lions began to find opportunities to attack the lane. Behrend added a three-pointer with 13:16 to play to extend its lead to five.
Scoring eight points in little more than two minutes, Penn State had its first double-digit lead of the afternoon, 49-38. Foldi added two more points shortly afterward, amid a Franciscan scoring deficit characterized by off-target threes and missed opportunities in the lane.
With less than four minutes to play, the Barons began to cut into a dominant 12 point Penn State lead. Sophomore center Matt Trent knocked down two free throws, before he again went to the line and rendered the Lions’ lead only a single-digit difference, 53-44. A Foldi layup later, assisted by senior guard Jacob Divens, and the Behrend lead was down to seven, with only 3:09 to play.
The Lions subsequently put all hopes of a Franciscan comeback to rest, closing the game on their terms with an 8-3 run; all eight points were contributed from the free throw line, slowly rendering the deficit too expansive for the Barons to overcome. The final buzzer put a 61-49 loss into the books for the Barons, dropping the squad to 3-14 on the season and 2-8 in interconference play.
The Barons will look to add their next home win on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., in an 8 p.m. conference showdown against Penn State-Altoona.