Unbeaten and 10th-ranked East Stroudsburg opened Wednesday night’s 81-68 victory over Pitt-Johnstown with an 8-0 run over the game’s first minute and 40 seconds.
When it looked like the Warriors were poised to run away with the PSAC crossover match, the Mountain Cats rallied to within a point and stayed close to East Stroudsburg through the remainder of the first half.
A 14-4 swing early in the second half changed things for East Stroudsburg as it pulled away from Pitt-Johnstown.
“I was happy with how we executed at that end of the floor,” East Stroudsburg coach Jeff Wilson said. “Jamal Nwaniemeka did a great job making those 3s, Rasheed Moore, Dajon Todman and Lamont Tillery were very good on the glass, they got us some offensive rebounds that we desperately needed.”
A 3-pointer from Whis Grant opened the game-breaking run for the Warriors (14-0) before the Mountain Cats’ Ian Vescovi replied with baby hook in the paint. Grant rattled in a pair of free throws before Rider transfer Jamal Nwaniemeka rattled home back-to-back 3-pointers to seize control for East Stroudsburg. Following a lay-in by Pitt-Johnstown’s A.J. Leahey, Nwaniemeka connected on another 3-pointer, pushing the Warriors’ lead to 56-40.
“In the second half, we came out and missed four straight free throws,” Pitt-Johnstown coach Bob Rukavina said. “We just didn’t make any shots to start the second half and they’re an up-tempo, fast-paced team that gets a lot of shots. If you’re not scoring with them, you’re in trouble.”
Through the remainder of the game, the East Stroudsburg lead ballooned as high as 19 points while never shrinking below 10.
Nwaniemeka’s 20 points led the Warriors with Grant supplying 15 more to the ledger. Rasheed Moore, who scored the first five points to open the game, ended with 13.
Matt Tobin’s 13 assists are the most by a Warriors player in Wilson’s 12 years at the helm.
“(Tobin) is just very good,” Rukavina said. “He makes them go. We just couldn’t stop his penetration. He got the ball up the court and found people and they made 12 3-pointers. He’s the glue for that team.”
Andrew Cressler’s 19 points topped Pitt-Johnstown while Matt Palo tallied 24 points off the bench. Vescovi led all rebounders with 13 boards.
Before tipoff, the school recognized Rukavina for picking up his 400th win on Dec. 21 at Mansfield.
That 91-74 Pitt-Johnstown win also saw Bill Luther become the 25th player in program history to eclipse 1,000 career points.
“Time goes by so fast,” Rukavina said. “Hard to believe that this is my 25th year here and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Hopefully we’ll get a few more wins before it’s all over.”
Wilson, who was an assistant at East Stroudsburg before taking the reins of the program, was pleased to have been in the gym when the school honored Rukavina.
“I got into this in the 1980s as an assistant coach,” Wilson said. “We used to play Bob’s teams, they used to come to our tournament quite a bit. We actually played them in Florida a few times. My respect for him and his program, he does a great job. He has great kids. I’m glad that he got his 400th victory and that we were here to see him receive his plaque.”
Shawn Curtis is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/shawncurtis430.