READING, Pa. – Despite an 18-point lead in the second half, the Wells College men's basketball team posted a tough 81-78 loss to the Nittany Lions from Penn St.-Berks on Thursday. Wells dips to 6-9 overall and to 4-4 within the North Eastern Athletic Conference while the Nittany Lions improve to 4-9 and to 4-3 against league competition.
Freshman Rich Ross (Bronx, N.Y.) registered 24 total points for Wells, shooting 9-for-19 from the floor while adding a team-best four assists. Junior James Feocco (Auburn, N.Y.) turned in a double-double with 17 points and leading the team with 14 rebounds, giving him 202 across his three-year career.
Classmate Vaughndell Brantley (Syracuse, N.Y.) scored 17 points as well while sophomore MJ Williams (Tampa, Fla.) scored 12 for Wells. All five starters for Wells played at least 31 minutes as the team's offense shot a collective .483 (29-for-60) in the contest, the highest field goal percentage since shooting over 55% in the season opener against Alfred on Nov. 13, 2015.
With three separate 17-point leads spread out through the second half, Wells appeared to have control of the contest as late as with 9:38 remaining in regulation time. At that point, a trey from Ross catapulted the Express to a 66-49 lead that appeared to be secure given the time remaining. The Nittany Lions, however, recorded a huge comeback against the Express, who led the all-time series by a 9-4 margin.
Penn St.-Berks scored 32 of the game's final 44 points as an 11-2 run across a 2:11 span from 9:03 to 6:52 shrunk the Wells lead to 68-60. From there, a Feocco layup reestablished a double-digit lead, but the Nittany Lions continued to claw away at the lead. Ross traded "three's" with Christian Burggraf with just under five minutes to go, creating a 76-68 lead with 3:41 left in the second half.
With his team down by eight points with 3:30 remaining, Burggraf hit the first of three shots from distance down the stretch to almost single-handedly earn his team the victory. After pouring home back-to-back free throws, another three-point basket with 1:31 left gave his team a 78-76 lead.
A Ross layup with 1:06 remaining, however, was countered with another trey from Burggraf with only five seconds left. Down by an 81-78 margin at that point, a late heave by a Wells player was off the mark, leading the hosts to victory. Ross scored all eight points for Wells in the game's final six minutes.
Burggraf scored a dominant 37 points for the Nittany Lions, shooting 11-for-21 and committing only two turnovers in the contest. Dameon Nixon dished out 13 assists and posted 16 points of his own while Baba Waples struck for 12 points off the bench.
Wells will take on its second nationally-ranked opponent of the season, traveling to No. 20-ranked Lancaster Bible College for a 2 p.m. tip-off at the Horst Athletic Center.