Outstanding offensive execution not enough for Gators

D'Andre Corbin, '14, looks for a driving lane in the first half against Penn State Behrend. Photo by Charlie Magovern/The Campus
By Charlie Magovern

A four-point run for Allegheny followed by a four-point run by Penn State Behrend. A Gator steal followed by a Behrend block.

Such was the case Wednesday night, as Allegheny couldn’t keep pace with the Lions of Penn State Behrend, falling 83-73 in non-conference play.

The Gators (6-18) had one of their best offensive games of the season, shooting 52.8 percent from the field, but were unable to contain Behrend’s (21-3) Princeton-style offense led by Chris Saltzman’s 27 points.

“We guarded their action well, but when it was a one-on-one breakdown situation they were able to take us off the dribble,” said head coach Jim Driggs. “They don’t miss many shots. They’ve got five guys that can dribble, pass and shoot.”

The game was closely contested through most of the first half, but a 10-0 run capped by a three by Justin Kovac with three minutes remaining allowed Behrend to build a 37-30 lead at the break.

Allegheny hung around in the second, but Behrend kept the Gators at an arm’s length by responding to seemingly every score or stop with one of their own. Their success was partly due to their edge in rebounding while the Gators were on offense. The Lions totaled 17 defensive rebounds compared to Allegheny’s 13 offensive boards, which kept the Gators from getting second-chance points.

“They felt that because we are small, they would have an advantage crashing the boards,” said junior Donte Briscoe, who contributed 11 points, including two by way of an electrifying alley-oop at the 8:42 mark in the second.

Junior Donte Briscoe challenges Behrend's Nick Thorsen for two of his 11 points. Photo by Charlie Magovern/The Campus

Junior Donte Briscoe challenges Behrend’s Nick Thorsen for two of his 11 points. Photo by Charlie Magovern/The CampusA five-point possession due to a technical foul by the Lions breathed life into the home squad with 5:39 remaining, fueling a 9-0 run for the Gators to pull them within six with five minutes left. The lead was trimmed to five with just two minutes to go, but Behrend was able to lean on Saltzman, who scored seven points in the final 2:30 of the game, mostly by making all five free throw attempts.

In fact, Behrend shot 92 percent (24-26) from the free throw line in the game, which was instrumental in keeping their lead greater than one possession for the majority of the game.

“Good teams, they can answer runs,” said Driggs. “And they were able to do that tonight.”

The season has been a tough transition for a young Gator squad with a new coach, but Driggs was looking forward to their final NCAC contest at Kenyon on Saturday because he saw his team starting to embrace his coaching philosophy.

“I want to play a certain way, and it’s taken our guys a while to understand that, but we’re getting better and better,” he said. “I thought was the first time that we were able to execute [the system].”

The Gators now have two days to prepare for Kenyon, a team they defeated earlier this year at home as they try to build momentum and hopefully make a splash in the conference tournament next week.

“Who knows what can happen?” Driggs said. “It’s a new season.”