By Drew Karpen
November 17, 2012 7:00 a.m. MEADVILLE —
On a night where the Allegheny faithful were honoring their hero, Greg Richards, the Gators men’s basketball team did Richards proud, delivering an 82-41 season-opening victory in the inaugural Greg Richards Memorial Tip-off tournament on Friday night at the David V. Wise Center.
“It is a great weekend to remember Greg (Richards),” Allegheny head coach Jim Driggs said. “He is someone who we truly love. To get a win in this setting is a little bit more special.”
In what started out as a slow offensive start for the Gators, turned out to be an electrifying end, doubling their opponents score. A large part of the high output was due to the 31 turnovers the Gators forced. The total number of turnovers was one shy of the team record at the Wise Center, set in the 2002-03 season against Oberlin.
“We wanted to get out and pressure the ball,” Driggs said. “A lot of those turnovers did not convert into points and I attribute that to first game jitters.”
Through the first five minutes of the game, both teams were evenly matched on the scoreboard, but the Gators were itching to make a run. That run happened halfway through the first half, thanks in large part to senior guard Devone McLeod.
With Allegheny up 14-12, McLeod led the Gators on a 14-2 run, scoring 11 points during that span.
“I was just getting the feel of the game, and I knew we were a better team so I tried to pick up the energy,” McLeod said. “Today it happened to be scoring, but whatever way I can pick up the energy I will. That’s what I have to do as a leader.”
During the run that gave Allegheny a 28-14 advantage, McLeod drained three 3-pointers.
The Gators forced 17 turnovers in the first half alone, and showed no signs of letting up in the second.
The Panthers turned the ball over on two of their first three possession in the second half, leading to easy transition buckets by Ryan Stanko and Clark Tritto.
More importantly, the Gators showed signs of precise passing and good team work on the offensive end, leading to easy layups.
“I think we kind of slowed it down a little bit and ran some of our stuff,” Driggs said. “When you are a little jacked up you don’t think clearly. We were a little bit more composed in the second half.”
That composure was evident during AC’s 22-0 run in the second half. Allegheny used a balanced attack during the run with baskets from Stanko, Tritto, Evan Schweitzer, David DiBernardi, Gabe Seidman and back-to-back 3-pointers from Wheeling Jesuit transfer Josh Valentic.
The only negative during the run was when McLeod left the game with an apparent cramp in his quadriceps.
“I should of drank a little more water before the game,” McLeod said.” Sometimes you get a little too excited. I will be fine for tomorrow.”
The lengthy run ended when Pitt-Titusville’s Jahson Abraham hit a rainbow jumper just inside the arc.
With the game out of reach, Driggs elected to bring in his young players to receive some early-season, in-game experience.
The decision proved to be a success when freshman forward Will Roughan put an exclamation point on a perfect night with a slam dunk.
“It was great because the young guys want to have their moments,” McLeod said. “It is like a domino effect with everyone wanting to chip in and hopefully it proves to help us as a team moving forward.”
McLeod was one of five players for Allegheny in double figures with 15 points. Valentic led the Gators with 16 points in his first game for Allegheny. Also in double figures were Stanko with 12 and Tritto and Marco Corona with 10 points a piece.
The Panthers’ Mark Houston was the leading scorer in the game with 24 points.
Allegheny advances to the championship game tonight against Wilmington, who defeated McDaniel earlier in the day, 69-54.
“We are going to have to execute better tomorrow,” Driggs said. “Wilmington is a very good team. We need to play with more poise and pay better attention to detail. They pressure and trap you all over the place. We need to handle the pressure and get our shot every time down the court.”