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Men's Basketball

Point Park men comeback from 19-point deficit to win at Rio Grande, 98-96

Jan. 8, 2015 at 2:00 a.m. ET

T.J. Lanier makes a free throw for a 95-91 lead with 12 seconds left at Rio Grande. Photo by Bill Ketrow.


RIO GRANDE, Ohio -- Already with an 0-2 conference record after two losses this past weekend, the Point Park University men's basketball team was staring at 19-point deficit late in the first half of its KIAC game at Rio Grande Wednesday night.

It was the Pioneers' third KIAC road game in a span of five days, and an 0-3 start to conference play seemed likely at that point.

But Point Park dug deep and came away with a 98-96 win after an amazing, second-half comeback. The victory improved Point Park to 9-6 overall and 1-2 KIAC entering Saturday's conference home game versus IU Kokomo at 2 p.m.

Rio Grande (10-5, 0-1 KIAC), the KIAC North Division favorite, had the lead as high as 51-32 with three minutes left in the first half. But Sa'iid Allen's 3-pointer ignited an 8-2, Point Park run to end the first half as the Pioneers had a good start to their comeback trailing 53-40 at the break.

Point Park outscored conference newcomer Rio Grande, 58-43, the final 20 minutes. Leading the second-half charge was junior guard/forward T.J. Lanier, who had 23 of his career-high 28 points after halftime. The Youngstown, Ohio, native was 9 of 12 from the floor, made a couple of 3-pointers and was 8 for 9 from the foul line, a place where Point Park essentially won the game.

Pioneers point guard Jerah'me Williams also had a huge game with 27 points and eight assists versus no turnovers. The junior from Youngstown, Ohio, had 19 points the second half, made 6 of 11 field goals and led the charge at the foul line making 13 of 14 attempts.

Point Park shot a blistering 68 percent (17 for 25) the second half to come storming back. The 25 field-goal attempts the final 20 minutes was a low number for the offensive-minded Pioneers, mainly because they spent most of their time at the foul line, especially the second half.

Point Park made 31 of 39 free throws on the night for 79.5 percent. That included 21 for 28 (75 percent) the second half. Free throws had been hurting Point Park with a 61-percent season average coming in, which included 10 for 21 at Alice Lloyd Sunday.

But Point Park was the aggressor at Rio Grande, working it for high percentage shots and getting to the free-throw line. Rio Grande made just 13 of 20 free throws on the night for 65 percent. That gave Point Park 11 more made foul shots than the Red Storm attempted.

Free throws played a big role in the final two minutes as Point Park scored its final eight points at the line. Rio Grande's final seven points came from the charity stripe, and its last field goal came at the 2:02 mark, a jumper by D.D. Joiner for an 89-86 lead.

Williams then made a jumper for Point Park, and Joiners missed trey on the other end was rebounded by Yandell Denis. The 6-4 Denis took the ball coast to coast for a layup and a 90-89 lead with 1:31 to play -- the Pioneers' first lead since 3-2 with 18:50 in the first half.

From there, it was a free-throw contest the last 90 seconds. Already up one, Point Park made 8 of 10, and Rio Grande was 7 for 10 to lose by two. Lanier made two with 12 seconds left for a 95-91 edge, the biggest Pioneers lead of the night.

Lanier later made two more for a 98-95 lead. Point Park mistakenly fouled a 3-point shooter in the final seconds, sending Evan Legg to the line for three shots and a chance to tie. He made the first, missed the second, then intentionally missed the third to try for a tying tip-in. But the rebound went to Point Park to end the game.

Point Park had all five starters in double figures with Barry Smith scoring 14, and Alan Heter and Denis finishing with 10 apiece. Point Park took great care of the ball with only six turnovers, and it shot 50 percent for the game (30 for 60).

Point Park opened the second half on an 11-4 run to quickly cut the deficit down to 57-53 with 16:12 left. Rio Grande was later ahead 68-60 with 11:00 to go, but Smith's free throw got made it a close game, 83-80, at the 5:00 mark.

Saturday's home games versus IU Kokomo will be broadcast live by the Point Park Sports Network on Team1Sports.com.
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