By Lisa Byers
It has been an interesting season for the Allegheny men’s basketball team.
Going into Saturday afternoon’s North Coast Athletic Conference tilt with Kenyon, the Gators had played in nine games decided by four points or less or in overtime. Five of those ended up going in favor of the Gators.
Allegheny wasn’t quite as fortunate yesterday.
The Gators rallied back to tie the score at 69-69 with 23 seconds to play, but Ikenna Nwadibia knocked down a jumper with three seconds remaining to give the Lords a 71-69 victory at the David V. Wise Center.
Allegheny fell to 9-10 overall and 3-7 in the NCAC and is now tied with Wabash for eighth place in the conference. Only the top eight teams advance to the postseason tournament, which begins Feb. 19.
“That’s our conference,” Allegheny junior forward Bobby Theiss said. “Every game is a battle. Every game is a dog fight. That’s the way things are going to be the rest of the year. Good teams find ways to win close games. We have found a way in a few of them. (Yesterday) was not our day.”
Allegheny’s last three contests were decided by four points or less beginning with a 65-61 loss to Denison a week ago. The Gators followed that up with a four-point win over Hiram, who the Gators had trailed in the standings.
For some time it looked as though Allegheny might pull off another big win right down to the buzzer.
Devone McLeod gave the Gators a 62-61 lead with 4:57 to play. Kenyon responded, though, with an 8-3 run that included 3-pointers by Julian Pavlin and Jonathan Amador to go up 69-65 with 1:13 remaining.
Josh Valentic responded with a jumper with 59 second left to ignite a raucous crowd and pull the Gators to within two. Allegheny opted to foul, sending Pavlin to the line for Kenyon for a 1 and 1 with 38 seconds to play. Pavlin missed the first one and Clark Tritto grabbed the rebound, setting up the tying jumper by McLeod with 23 seconds to play.
The Gators left too much time on the clock. Nwadibia took the ball from the right wing and drove across the baseline and threw up a one-handed jumper for the win. Allegheny did get off a shot at the buzzer from beyond half court that nearly banked in.
“We got off to a really good start, but they can shoot,” Kenyon head coach Dan Priest said of the Gators. “They have a lot of guys who can really shoot. So I don’t think they are ever out of games. If you look at what (Allegheny head coach) Jim (Driggs) has done and their scores … They’ve been in every game. We’re really happy. I think we beat a good team.”
Kenyon did come out on fire in yesterday’s game and led 9-2 with 16:09 to play in the first half. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Tritto pulled the Gators to within one (9-8). Allegheny wound up finishing the half up 34-31 and opened the second half with a 5-0 run to take its largest lead (39-31) of the game.
Tritto finished with 16 points and nine rebounds to lead the Gators. McLeod added 15 points and Valentic and Theiss chipped in with 10 apiece.
Nwadibia led all scorers with 19.