Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pitt-Johnstown Mountain Cats Hold Off Charleston, 85-79

Pitt-Johnstown used a 33-16 run over the first 12 minutes of the second half to erase a seven-point halftime deficit and secure an 85-79 victory over WVIAC rival University of Charleston (WV), Tuesday night in the Sports Center.  Danny Branch's (Washington, D.C.) game-high 23 points paced four Mountain Cats who scored in double figures.  Pitt-Johnstown improved to 4-0 overall and 3-0 in the WVIAC.
    
The Mountain Cats got back-to-back baskets from Branch and Nick Novak (Murrysville, Pa.) in the first minute of play, but Charleston scored the next 10 to take a 10-4 lead on Marcus Knott's lay-up at 16:28.
    
Pitt-Johnstown tied it at 16 on Bill Luther's (Gibsonia, Pa.) three-pointer at the 12:36 mark, and Branch gave Pitt-Johnstown the lead back at 18-16 on the next possession.
    
The game remained tight with a pair of lead changes and five ties over the next five minutes.  However, the Golden Eagles outscored the Mountain Cats 18-9 over the final 6:14 of the first half to build a 47-38 advantage.
    
Pitt-Johnstown outscored Charleston 7-2 over the first two minutes of the second half to cut the deficit to 49-45 on a Jordan Miller (Vinco, Pa.) three-pointer, but the Golden Eagles answered to push the lead back to seven at 52-45 on Malik Thomas' free-throw with 15:31 to play.
    
Patrick Grubbs' (Turtle Creek, Pa.) lay-up two minutes later capped an 8-1 Mountain Cat run to tie the score at 53.
    
Following a free-throw from Charleston's Brandon Ross, Pitt-Johnstown regained the lead for the first time in the second half on Noah Hartung's (Butler, Pa.) bucket.  Miller increased the lead to 64-59 with his third three-pointer midway through the second half, before Branch's dunk closed a 33-15 run to start the half and build the lead to 71-62 with 7:57 to play.
    
The Golden Eagles battled back to cut it to 77-74 on John Liggins' three-pointer at 2:41, but Pitt-Johnstown connected on six straight free-throws down the stretch to seal the win.
    
Branch led all scorers with 23 points on 10-16 shooting, including 3-9 from three-point range.  Branch also dished out a game-high eight assists, while Novak added 19 points, six assists and a perfect 9-9 from the free-throw line.  Grubbs and Miller both finished with 13 points.  Paul Weatherly (Johnstown, Pa.) scored eight points off the bench, and Luther chipped in seven points.
    
Branch, who holds the Mountain Cat career-record for three-pointers with 195, also ranks 14th on the Pitt-Johnstown All-Time Scoring List with 1,122 points.  He is 23 points shy of tying Dwight Hines (2002-07) for 13th-place on the scoring list.
    
The Mountain Cats wrapped-up the night shooting 58.9% (33-56) from the floor, 9-23 from behind the three-point line, and 10-11 from the free-throw line.  Charleston, which out-rebounded Pitt-Johnstown, 38-27, shot 44.1% (30-68) from the field and 6-20 from three-point range.  The Golden Eagles hit just 13-20 from the charity stripe.
    
Liggins led Charleston with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.  John White added 10 points and eight rebounds for the Golden Eagles, who dropped to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the WVIAC.
    
The Mountain Cats begin a stretch of three straight road games at WVIAC rival West Virginia Wesleyan College next Tuesday.  Pitt-Johnstown will return home to play its final home game of the first semester against Bloomsburg University on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. in the Sports Center.

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