Case Western Reserve University junior T.J. Duckett scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half, including a pair of go-ahead free throws with 3.3 seconds remaining, to lift the Spartans to a 67-65 win over Penn State – Harrisburg in the opening game of the Sponaugle New Year's Tournament at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Monday evening.
With the win, Case Western Reserve improved to 4-6 overall on the year, while Penn State – Harrisburg dropped to 4-6.
Duckett led the Spartans with 22 points on a seven-of-11 shooting effort from the field, and hit all eight of his free throw attempts, including the crucial pair at the end of the contest. He added a game-high 11 rebounds to collect his fourth double-double of the year.
The Spartans trailed early, but took the lead on an 8-0 run over a three-minute stretch starting at the 16:55 mark in the first half. Case Western Reserve would lead by as many as seven points during the first half on three occasions, matching their largest lead of the game to that point on an offensive rebound and lay-up by junior guard Jake Lavis with time running out in the first half. Junior forward David Black led the Spartans at halftime, scoring 10 of his 11 points in the game during the first 20 minutes of action.
Duckett would score the first eight points of the second half for the Spartans, but the Lions would battle back to tie the game with 15:38 to play. After a three pointer by junior guard Colin Zucker gave CWRU a 45-42 lead with 12:12 remaining, Penn State – Harrisburg went on a 10-0 run to take a seven point lead, their largest of the game, with 10:01 left in the second half.
Freshman Connor Nally would knock down back-to-back threes to cut into the Lions lead, and after Duckett tied the game on a layup off an offensive rebound, a three-pointer by junior guard Javier Alvarez put the Spartans ahead with 4:45 to play. The teams would continue to go back-and fourth, with Penn State – Harrisburg's Khalil White tying the game at 65-65 on a three-point shot with 1:15 to play. Still tied with the shot clock turned off, Alvarez drove the lane, before passing out to Duckett, who was fouled on a shot attempt with 3.3 seconds remaining. After a timeout by the Lions, Duckett knocked down both attempts from the charity stripe to complete his perfect day from the line, and a three-point attempt by Penn State – Harrisburg's Jazmon Harris went well wide of the hoop, giving the Spartans the win.
Free throws played a major role throughout the contest for the Spartans. While CWRU held a narrow advantage in free throw percentage (66.7% to 62.5%), the Spartans went to the line 13 more times than the Lions, connecting on 14 of their 21 attempts.
Zucker added 10 points on the day for the Spartans, while junior forward Eric Black came off the bench to block three shots and score six points. Case Western Reserve held a 20-8 edge in points off turnovers in the game.
The Spartans will take on the winner of the second game of the Sponaugle New Year's Tournament between host Franklin and Marshall College and SUNY Canton at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 3rd.