Freshman Justice Smith scored over 20 points for the third straight game to lead the Mansfield University men’s basketball team who fell on the road in dramatic fashion to West Chester University in the closing seconds, 99-97 in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) action on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 15.

The Mountaineers (0-9, 1-14 PSAC) take their second straight PSAC opponent to the wire after falling in the closing seconds to Shippensburg University on Wednesday. West Chester improves to 8-3 overall and 3-3 in the PSAC.

Sophomore Marcus Friend found senior Eli Alvin for the go-ahead layup with 20 seconds to go, but West Chester sunk three free throws in the closing seconds and got the stops they needed to escape with the victory.

The Mounties shot 49 percent (36-of-73) from the floor to outshoot the Golden Rams (32-of-78), but West Chester dominated at the charity stripe, especially in the second half, picking up 10 extra points to make up the scoring.

Smith scored a game-high 27 points, pulled in four rebounds, dished out two assists and finished with a steal and a block. Sophomore Jaz Farrell and Friend each added 17 points, while Friend dished out a game-high six assists and plucked a game-high five steals. Farrell knocked down a team-high three trifectas and freshman Scott Woodring finished with a team-high eight rebounds.

After a dominate first half from the Mountaineers where they led out of the break, 51-43, West Chester outscored MU 16-8 through the opening four minutes to tie the game at 59. However, the Mountaineers scored the games’ next nine points, led by six points and an assist from Friend, regaining a 68-59 advantage.

West Chester cut their deficit to three two more times over the next five minutes, before tying the game at 70 with just over 11 minutes to go.

However, the Mounties had yet another answer as they outscored the Golden Rams, 13-6 over the next three minutes, led by six points from Smith and Farrell to lead 83-76.

West Chester hit five of their next six shots to respond with a 18-10 run over the next six minutes to take their first lead since early in the first half, 94-93 with just over two minutes to go.

Smith drilled a pair of free throws on the ensuing Mountaineer possession to regain the Mountaineer lead, before the teams traded scores to make it 97-96 Mansfield with 20 seconds remaining, setting up the dramatic finish.

In the first half, the Mountaineers responded from a slow start to tie the game at 17 with 13:42 to go. After a pair of converted Golden Rams’ free throws made it 21-21 at the 11:50 mark, the Mounties went on a 9-0 run over the next three minutes to take a 30-21 lead.

A pair of free throws from Farrell gave the Mounties their largest lead of the first half, 37-25 at the 6:11 mark.

The Golden Rams scored four quick points in the final minute of the first half, but a 3-pointer by freshman Dishon Lewis send the Mounties to the break leading, 51-43.

Robert Smith led five Golden Rams in double figures with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting, while knocking down five 3-pointers.

The Mountaineers defense led to efficient offense as they shot 51 percent from the floor, while holding the Golden Rams to 35 percent.

Smith finished the first half with a game-high 12 points, while Friend and Farrell each added nine. The Mounties forced six takeaways, led by two from Friend.

The Mounties travel to Bloomsburg University on Monday, Jan. 17 for a 3 p.m. PSAC contest.

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