Strong guard play and a red-hot night from beyond the arc paced Houghton to a 92-79 win over Pitt-Bradford in each team’s season opener at KOA Arena Tuesday night.
The Highlanders shot an eye-popping 46.4% (13-for-28) from three-point range and also went 21-for-23 from the foul line to secure a win in which they never trailed.
“We had some lapses early on and let (Houghton) get some confidence,” UPB head coach Ryan Shay said. “If you give a team some confidence and a couple easy shots, it’s downhill from there.”
Indeed, the Highlanders (1-0) drilled a pair of threes to open the scoring, and then maintained their advantage throughout the rest of the night.
Isander Ramos-Net led Houghton with 29 points, including nine from three-point range, and Jordan Holmes logged 27 points. Holmes shot 4-for-8 from beyond the arc, and added an 11-for-12 night from the charity stripe.
After a slow start that saw the Panthers get down 13-4 early in the first half, UPB got its offense going thanks to some key points in the paint. In fact, Pitt-Bradford outscored the Highlanders 42-20 on inside shots.
However, each time the Panthers managed to get on a roll, Houghton was able to knock down a critical trey or get to the charity stripe to maintain its advantage.
This was most apparent after UPB trimmed the Highlander lead to 24-19 with 6:51 left in the first half. Despite picking up subsequent baskets from Nick Carmichael, Deondre Terwilliger, Justin Kusiappouh and Zach Dahlstrand on consecutive possessions, the Highlanders were able to pick up a pair of treys from Holmes and another three from AJ Bass during that stretch to maintain a 34-27 advantage and then eventually a 38-33 lead into halftime.
“Credit to them,” Shay said of the Highlanders’ efforts. “They came out ready to play and hit some of those shots… I think we started doing a little better at closing out, but they had already gained that confidence and were making some good shots from that point on.”
Pitt-Bradford, meanwhile, struggled from the field, particularly from deep. The Panthers went 30-for-75 on the night, and made just five of 23 three-point attempts.
The lone bright spot from deep was freshman Gavin Boggs. He went 3-for-7 from downtown, and finished his debut with 11 points and four rebounds. He also provided a key defensive spark in the second half for the Panthers.
“He’s been really consistent for us in practice, and I’ve been really impressed with him as a freshman,” Shay said of the newcomer. “We want to continue to see him push himself on both ends of the court. But I loved the aggression and the maturity from him to make good decisions and be responsible.”
Dahlstrand and Kusiappouh finished with double-doubles, as Dahlstrand scored 18 points and pulled down 11 boards, while Kusiappouh logged 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Out of the break, the teams battled back-and-forth, as the Highlanders clinged to a 53-49 lead with 12 minutes to go in the game.
And then came the critical free throws and three-pointers for Houghton.
A three to Reece Gustafson and then a pair of free throws from Isaac Dow pushed the Highlanders’ lead back out to nine, 58-49.
UPB battled back with baskets from Dylan Meyer and Boggs, as well as a pair of free throws from Dahlstrand to cut the Houghton lead to 60-55.
But then the Highlanders really got on a roll, as Holmes made four free throws and Dow added a three to push the lead to 67-55. From there, Houghton took full advantage of UPB fouls, sinking nine of 10 free throws down the stretch to secure the 92-79 win.
“We did do a good job of making some good runs, but I want us to make better decisions down the stretch,” Shay said. “We started to get in foul trouble, which got (Houghton) to the line… So that’s one of the biggest areas for me is foul discipline so that we’re not giving (opponents) free points late in the game.”
The Panthers will look to rebound from their season opening loss on Saturday at Keuka College for a 1 o’clock tip-off.
Donk 1 2-2 4, Isander Ramos-Net 10 5-5 28, Jordan Holmes 6 11-12 27, Berghaus 3 0-0 9, McCrae 3 0-0 7, Gustafson 1 0-0 3, Bass 4 1-2 9, Dow 1 2-2 5. Totals: 29 21-23 92
Justin Kusiappouh 5 3-7 13, Gavin Boggs 4 0-0 11, Jeffrey Fry 5 1-3 12, Deondre Terwilliger 5 2-2 12, Carmichael 4 0-0 8, Lynch 1 0-0 3, Meyer 1 0-1 2, Zach Dahlstrand 5 8-8 18. Totals: 30 14-21 79
Houghton 38 92
Pitt-Bradford 33 79
Three-point goals: Houghton 13 (Ramos-Net 3, Holmes 4, Berghaus 3, McCrae 1, Gustafson 1, Dow 1), UPB 5 (Boggs 3, Fry 1, Lynch 1); Total fouls: Houghton 20, UPB 22; fouled out: None.