ERIE, Pa – The Penn State Behrend men's basketball team dropped their season and home opener to Thiel Tuesday evening, 76-69.
The Lions (0-1) erased an 18-point first-half deficit, but a clutch three-pointer and free throws from the Tomcats (1-0) with over a minute left to play spoiled the Behrend comeback. Andy Niland (Fairview, PA/Fairview) shot a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe and led all scorers with 21 points.
Thiel was led by four starters who scored in double-digits to outlast the Lions' second-half comeback. Tyreik Burton led the Tomcats offense with 19 points while Clandell Cetoute recorded a double-double, scoring 15 points and pulling down 13 rebounds.
Thiel and Behrend played an even first half, each exchanging the lead twice through the first 13 minutes of action. The Tomcats, however, went on a 12-0 run in the final three minutes of play to take a 42-24 lead into the half. The Lions shot just 22.6 percent from the floor compared to Thiel's 56.7 percent.
The Tomcats found themselves in early foul trouble in the second half and Behrend took advantage, shooting a near-perfect 94.4 percent (17-18) from the line. The Lions used the full 20-minute half to slowly claw away at the Thiel lead. At the 1:43 mark, Malquan Pullium (Erie, PA/Strong Vincent) drained a free throw to finally tie the score at 69.
The tie didn't last long. Alonzo Brown capitalized on a Pullium turnover by hitting a three with 1:09 left in the game. The Tomcats held Behrend at 69 points for the remainder of the game and added to their lead with clutch free throws.
Justin Gorny (South Park, PA/South Park) led the Lions with seven rebounds and added 16 points.
This marks Behrend's first home non-conference loss since November 20, 2012 when Thiel defeated the Lions 72-70 in overtime.
The Lions will look for a win on Friday when they travel to Alfred St. Game time is set for 7 p.m.