The University of Scranton men's basketball team played a strong first half and then made a few key plays in the closing minutes to defeat Drew, 80-74, on Wednesday night in the John Long Center, putting the Royals squarely in the thick of a tight Landmark Conference playoff race.
The win moves Scranton (13-5, 6-4 Landmark) into a tie with Drew (9-10, 6-4) for fourth place, a half-game behind third-place Catholic (13-5, 6-3), and a game behind second-place Juniata (13-5, 7-3). Susquehanna (16-2, 7-2) sits atop the conference despite a loss to Catholic on Wednesday.
Scranton took a 44-29 lead at halftime thanks to hot shooting (61.3 percent) and strong defense that held Drew to just 34.8 percent. The Royals were 19-for-31 from the field, including 6-for-13 from 3-point range, as four players had eight or more points, led by sophomore guard Kevin Doolan (Basking Ridge, N.J./Ridge), who had 11.
Drew slowly crept back into the game in the second half, pulling within six with 7:31 to play and eventually five at 77-72 with 1:29 left. But the Royals got two big defensive rebounds made a three free throws, all in the final 61 seconds, to keep the Rangers from getting within a possession in the final minute.
Senior forward Brendan Boken (South Pasadena, Calif./Loyola) had his 10th double-double of the season, finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds to go along with six assists, two blocks and a steal. Junior forward John Vitkus (Mahopac, N.Y./Mahopac) had his fourth double-double of the season with 19 points, 12 rebounds, six blocks, three assists and a steal. Doolan finished with 16 points, including four 3-pointers, and six assists, and sophomore guard Ethan Danzig (Clarks Green, Pa./Abington Heights) also canned four 3-pointers en route to 14 points. Those four combined to go 26-for-41 (63.4 percent) from the field.
Scranton finished the night shooting 55.8 percent (29-for-52) from the field, including 10-for-21 (47.6 percent) from 3-point range. The Royals were also 12-for-19 (63.2 percent) from the free throw line. They won the rebounding battle, 33-24, and committed only 12 turnovers while assisting on 26 of their 29 made baskets.
Drew went 22-for-52 (42.3 percent) from the field, including 8-for-22 (36.4 percent) from 3-point range. They made 22 of 27 (81.5 percent) from the free throw line and committed just 10 turnovers.
The Royals are back in action on Saturday, Jan. 30, when they travel to Elizabethtown, Pa. to take on Elizabethtown in a Landmark Conference game at 2 p.m.