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Men's Basketball

Point Park men outlast CCU, 86-84, advance to KIAC Tournament semifinals

Feb. 25, 2015

Yandell Denis slashes to the hoop for two of his 23 points versus CCU. Photo by Darnell Graham.


WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. -- The Point Park University men's basketball team ended its afternoon shootaround on Wednesday prior to its KIAC Tournament quarterfinal game with a free-throw shooting contest. Guards Jerah'me Williams and Sa'iid Allen were deadlocked in the finals of the contest having made 16 in a row before someone finally missed.

Fast forward about five hours later into the night, and it was another string of made free throws that resulted in a win, 86-84, over visiting Cincinnati Christian in the playoffs at CCAC-South Gym.

The Pioneers (15-12, 6-7 KIAC) made 7 of 8 free throws in the final minute -- including the last six in a row -- to outlast 20-game winner Cincinnati Christian (20-11, 8-5) and oust the defending KIAC Tournament champs from the bracket.

Point Park, the No. 2 seed out of the KIAC North Division, will visit Brescia (Ky.) (19-9, 10-3 KIAC), the No. 1 seed out of the KIAC South, in the semifinals on Feb. 28. Tipoff in Owensboro, Ky., will be 3 p.m. CT / 4 p.m. ET.

Point Park pulled off the difficult feat of beating a team three times in one season. The Pioneers beat CCU in the two regular season meetings, 75-71, on Dec. 6 and, 78-76, on Jan. 20, the latter of which came when the Eagles were ranked No. 17 in NAIA Division II. The three meetings were decided by a total of eight points, and Wednesday's clash was close as usual.

But Point Park had just enough playmaking from its talented starting five as the each starter registered double digits.

Guard Yandell Denis continued his stellar play with 23 points on a mix of treys (3 of them), drives and jumpers. Denis, a 6-4 junior from Brooklyn, N.Y., hit a silky fadeaway for a 74-66 lead with 5:12 left, just as CCU was making its charge back from a 13-point, second-half deficit.

The Pioneers had been up 59-46 midway through the second half when T.J. Lanier knocked down his fifth of five made 3-pointers on the night. The 6-6 junior from Youngstown, Ohio, made his first five from beyond the arc to get the Pioneers out to the big lead, and he finished with 17 points on 5 of 8 from distance.

CCU clawed back to cut the deficit to four on a couple of occasions, including 68-64, with 8:44 to go. Then Point Park bumped the lead back up to 79-70 on Alan Heter's old-fashioned 3-point play at the 3:49 mark. But CCU was not going quietly, especially with Mitch McLeish and D.J. McCommons making plays on the perimeter.

McLeish, who had 21 points on 5 of 9 from deep, followed McCommons' triple with a trey of his own as CCU was within 79-76, with 2:26 left. McCommons ended up with 17 points on 4 of 6 from the outside.

CCU, the sixth-best 3-point shooting team in the nation at 40.4 percent, missed a chance to tie when McLeish misfired on the Eagle's next possession. Denis soared for the big rebound and was fouled as the clock ticked under a minute at 59 seconds.

Denis stepped to the line and made 1 of 2 foul shots. That started a string of the Pioneers putting the game away at the free-throw line. Williams and Barry Smith each knocked down a pair of free throws around a couple of quick baskets by CCU that kept the Pioneers ahead, 84-80, with 19 ticks left.

McCommons then made things really interesting when he canned a 3 from the corner to make it an 84-83 game with 12 seconds left. And when Williams made two more free throws for an 86-83 lead with 5 seconds to go, the Pioneers opted to foul in the backcourt with the 3-point lead.

McCommons made the first and missed the second on purpose. CCU caught a break when the rebound went out of bounds off Point Park. With three seconds, the Eagles inbounded to McCommons, who had a look for the tie from 18 feet, but the jumper rolled just off the rim as time expired.

Heter ended up with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Pioneers, who were up 40-36 at the half. Point Park made 9 of 14 treys in the first half to lead by as many as eight before the half. Williams finished with 16 points and eight assists versus just one turnover. He was 6 for 6 from the foul line.

The victory gave Point Park its first playoff win in eight years. The last time the Pioneers won a postseason game was the 2006-07 AMC championship game, which improved the Pioneers to 29-1 on the year. The Pioneers had lost five straight conference playoff games, all of which were on the road.

But a return to the home court benefited the Pioneers, who are now 9-4 at CCAC-South this year. They will have to get a big road win Saturday at Brescia to advance. Point Park is 4-8 on the road, which includes a 79-60 loss at Brescia Jan. 23. Brescia beat IU Kokomo, 94-74, on Wednesday night.

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