Men’s basketball starts season The gators open the 2013-2014 season with two wins

By PAT JAMESON

Staff Writer

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Allegheny men’s basketball season began this past week, culminating in a 2-1 record.

On Wednesday night, Allegheny hosted the Geneva Golden Tornados, losing a heartbreaker, 67-66.

Geneva started fast and jumped to a quick 9-2 lead just minutes in.

Allegheny answered with a 10 point run sparked by a Josh Valentic, ’15, three-pointer.

From then on it was an evenly played game for the rest of the first half as both sides struggled to find offensive success.

The Gators fell behind 24-17 late in the half behind a slew of Golden Tornadoes free throws but Allegheny kept fighting.

With five minutes remaining, Evan Schweitzer, ’16, hit a three while Marco Corona, ’14, dropped in a layup to close the distance to two.

A pair of threes by John O’Donnell, ’14, and Valentic put the Gators up by four with a minute left in the half. A Geneva foul shot cemented the score at 33-31 going into halftime.

O’Donnell started the Gators off right in the opening of the second half, sinking a three just two minutes in. It was a back and forth affair throughout the remainder of the game, with Allegheny maintaining the lead.

It appeared as if Allegheny was going to pull out the win with three minutes left, as they went on a run to go up 62-54 following two consecutive jump shots by Corona. The Golden Tornados mounted a comeback and pulled ahead by one with 47.

Allegheny regained possession with 17 minutes left and called a timeout after two missed Geneva free throws. The Gators managed to get the ball to Valentic with 10 seconds left but the Golden Tornadoes defense forced him into a last second shot that ultimately fell short as the buzzer sounded.

Brandon Smith, ’15, put on a dominant performance in the post, ending with 20 points and 15 rebounds. D’Andre Corbin, ’14, put in his best effort of the season thus far, notching 13 points and 12 assists. O’Donnell was lethal from beyond the arc and ended the game with 12 points and an 80 percent shooting average on attempted threes.

Corona had six points and four rebounds, most of which came in the final five minutes. Clark Tritto, ’14, pulled down nine rebounds in the loss while Valentic ended with nine points as well. The opposition had five scorers end up in double digits, including Trevor York who dropped 17 points on the Gators.

Despite the disappointing finish, both Corona and Tritto said the team needs to look forward and not dwell on what could have been.

“It was a tough loss,” Corona said. “But we have to continue to work hard and practice” to prepare for the matchup against Penn State Behrend this Saturday at 7 p.m.

Tritto seconded Corona.

“We need to improve on our ball defense and closing out games.”

Head Coach Driggs said that despite the early success, he is more worried about his team improving rather than focusing on their record.

“We just want to get better every day and worry about our effort and our attitude,
Driggs said. “I’m more worried about the process of doing things the right way each day.”

Over the weekend, the Gators hosted the Greg Richards Memorial Tournament.

The opening contest was played last Friday, as the squad took on Alma College.

The Gators started out fast as O’Donnell sank a three pointer only seven seconds in. Both teams traded points for much of the first half to reach a halftime tie of 37.  Allegheny’s largest lead was three.

The second half was a similar story as both teams stayed neck in neck. Alma broke ahead with 12 minutes left, using several layups to go up 56-51 on the home team. Allegheny answered as its defense buckled down and the Gators tied the game off of points by Smith and Valentic. Valentic came up big again with eight minutes left, knocking down a jumper and hitting the ensuing free throw to go up 63-62. His play proved to be the spark the Gators needed and they never trailed again, eventually ending up with the 77-67 win.

Valentic ended with a game high 28 points and pulled down nine rebounds as well. His dominant performance was a major factor in the Gators’ success and he was recently named the NCAC Player of the Week for his efforts.

“Josh played well,” Driggs said. “He scored the ball, which was nice, but more importantly he defended and rebounded all weekend.”

Tritto was a force on both offense and defense, accounting for 12 points while recording three steals and seven rebounds. Corbin and O’Donnell both notched nine points apiece while three other Gators recorded at least five in the win.

Valentic starred again the next day, this time against the Adrian College Bulldogs. After an even start, Allegheny pulled ahead with 12 minutes left in the half thanks to a three point shot by O’Donnell and back to back Valentic layups. At one point, they led by seven. However, the Bulldogs tied it up at 19 with three minutes to go. Schweitzer bolstered Allegheny with one minute remaining, knocking down a shot from beyond the arc and helping the Gators score seven points in the final minute. They entered halftime up by a score of 28-23.

The Gators started fast in the second half, jumping to a 41-27 lead off of several Smith layups and a three pointer by Tritto. The Bulldogs had no answer to Smith’s presence in the paint. Allegheny never trailed during the second half and their potent offense proved too much for an overmatched Adrian defense en route to a 58-44 win.

Valentic led the Gator offense, accounting for 13 total points. O’Donnell contributed eight points to the win.

While Valentic was the leading scorer, Smith surged in the second half, accounting for eight of his 10 total points in the closing minutes and finishing with eight rebounds. He and Tritto were named to the All-Tournament Team while Valentic nabbed MVP honors.

“This past weekend was great for us,” Clark Tritto said. “We played well as a team, defended well and rebounded the ball well, which was our biggest problem last year.”

Coach Driggs said he was pleased with the defensive effort as well.

“I thought we did a good job rebounding the ball both nights,” Driggs said, “That will be critical for our success moving forward.”

The Gators will face off against Penn State Behrend Saturday night at 7 p.m.