November 24, 2015

Knudsen FTs lift Wolverines over Penn State Beaver

 MONACA, Pa. -- Senior forward Caleb Knudsen (Saylorsburg, Pa./Pius X) poured in a game and career-high 19 points, including a pair of free throws with just one second remaining, to lift the Grove City College men's basketball team to a thrilling 76-75 non-conference victory at Penn State Beaver on Tuesday night.

Knudsen also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, including an offensive rebound that led to the foul in the closing seconds. Freshman guard Brandon Grider (Canton, Ohio/Glenoak) posted a career-high 17 points on 7 for 11 shooting while senior guard Joe Vermilya (Sylvania, Ohio/Southview) also reached double-figures with 12 points.

In a game that saw 15 lead changes, 10 ties and no lead greater than six points, the Lions (2-4) would jump out to an early 11-5 advantage less than four minutes into the game. Grove City (3-2) would chip away, tying the game for the first time on a Vermilya jumper with 12:54 to play and taking an 18-16 lead on a jumper by junior forward Tyler McGrath (Pottstown, Pa./Owen J. Roberts) with 12:20 remaining in the first half.

The Wolverines would extend that lead to 24-19 -- their largest lead of the night -- just past the midway point of the first half, but answer with six-straight points to put Penn State Beaver back on top 25-24. From there, the lead would teeter back and forth, with the lead changing hands six times to go with four ties over a four-minute span. The Lions' Marcus Smith would knock down a three-pointer to extend the lead back to five at 41-36 with 2:25 remaining, but freshman guard Gabe Goode (Cocoa, Fla./Cocoa) and senior guard Stephen Tam (Hamilton, Mass./Hamilton-Wenham) would both hit jumpers in the closing minutes to bring the Wolverines within a point before a Lamont Wright layup in the final minute sent the Penn State Beaver into halftime with a 43-40 lead.

Vermilya led all scorers at halftime with 12 points while Grider had 10 for the Wolverines. Smith led the Lions with 11 while Wright added 10. Grove City shot 50 percent (17-34) from the field in the first half but allowed Penn State Beaver to shoot 57 percent (17-30). The Wolverines also committed 10 first-half turnovers, leading to 16 points for the host Lions.

Much like in the first half, the game would remain tight throughout the second half. A Gerald Boykin jumper with 9:25 remaining would give Penn State Beaver a 63-57 lead, matching its largest of the night, and force a Wolverine timeout. The Wolverines would respond out of the break, as Tam and sophomore guard Seth Muck (Avon Lake, Ohio/Avon Lake) both made jumpers to bring Grove City back within two points.

It seemed as if the Lions would have an answer for every Wolverine surge, as Wright made a jumper to push the Lion lead back to four and DJ Austin answered a Knudsen jumper with a three-pointer to give Beaver a five-point advantage. Knudsen would hit another mid-range jumper to close the gap to three, but Wright would slash to the hole for a layup and later make one of two free throws to extend the lead back to six points with 4:43 to play.

After several empty possessions on both ends, Grider would knock down a big three-pointer to close the gap to 71-68 with 3:30 remaining. After a stop on the defensive end, Knudsen would make a jumper to bring the Wolverines within one at 71-70. Grove City's defense would get another stop and Grider would hit another jumper to put Grove City back on top 72-71 with 1:44 to play.

After a miss for each team, Smith would steal the ball and race to the other end for a layup to give the Lions a 73-72 lead with 50 seconds remaining. Knudsen would drive the lane for a layup of his own to put the Wolverines back on top 74-73, but Wright would counter with another layup to give the Lions a 75-74 advantage with just 10 seconds remaining.

Tam would dribble down the floor, and the Wolverines would eventually find Vermilya for a three-point look. Vermilya's shot missed, but Knudsen snared the offensive rebound and was fouled on a put-back attempt with just one second remaining to set up the game-winning free throws.

The Lions would hold Vermilya scoreless in the second half but were unable to contain Knudsen, who netted 17 points and nine rebounds in the second half alone. He and Grider combined to score Grove City's final 15 points of the game.

For the night, Grove City shot 32 for 66 (49 percent) from the floor, 5 for 14 (36 percent) from three-point range, and 7 for 12 (58 percent) from the foul line. The Wolverines held a commanding 43-22 advantage on the boards, including 18 offensive rebounds that led to a 23-7 edge in second-chance points.

Tam added eight points, eight rebounds and three assists for the Wolverines while sophomore forward Jon Grim (New Castle, Pa./Mohawk) chipped in four points and six rebounds off the bench. Led by Grider's 17, Grove City's bench outscored the Penn State Beaver reserves 31-7.

Wright led the Lions with 19 points and eight assists while Boykin and Smith added 17 and 16, respectively.

Grove City opens its 2015-16 Presidents' Athletic Conference schedule on Wednesday when they visit Washington and Jefferson for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.

Box Score

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