Playoff hopes fading as men fall to 2 games out

Written By Derek Malush

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After a little more than two and a half weeks of not tasting victory, the Point Park men’s basketball team snapped its four-game losing streak Wednesday night, holding off Villa Maria College for a 87-85 non-conference win at home.

The Pioneers were navigated to victory via the offensive clinic put on by sophomore guard Asim Pleas, who scored a career-high 29 points on 70 percent shooting from the field.

“He played hard,” head coach Gabe Bubon said following Pleas’ career-high performance. “It’s something we really needed from him.”

Point Park bagged the lead at halftime, 44-35, creating a nine bpoint deficit for Villa Maria behind Pleas’ 10 points and the team’s nine three-pointers.

However, it was a different beast in the second half for Villa Maria, which managed to pull two points within the first six minutes of play.

After not playing in the first half, junior guard Rushan Roberts came off the bench in the second half to score 10 points, drop three assists and come away with four steals in his 14 minutes of play.

With the Pioneers clinging to an 87-82 lead with 15 seconds to play, Villa Maria’s DaJuan Owens drained a three-pointer to pull within two points.

Roberts pulled through with late-game heroics when he stole the ball in the final seconds of the game to give Point Park its first win in the last five games.

“It’s all about how you finish”, Roberts said.

The Pioneers looked to make back-to-back wins for the first time since early December on Friday night as they matched up with Asbury (Ky.) University at their home court of Community College of Allegheny County South (CCAC).

The River State Conference (RSC) matchup was nip and tuck all the way through, as Point Park finished shooting 43 percent from the field, with Asbury shooting 44 percent from the floor. The two teams also each dropped an identical 14 total assists and turned the ball over 10 times, as well as shooting just above 70 percent from the charity stripe.

However, it was Asbury who donned the halftime lead, 51-42.

“We don’t like playing from behind,” Bubon said of his halftime deficit. “Room for error is a lot less when you play from behind.”

The game, however, came down to turnovers. With Point Park mounting back into it, only down 90-87 with less than 30 seconds to play, the late game surge saw its final demise.

Miscommunication led to the final Pioneer turnover, as the inbounds pass was overthrown and scooped up by an Asbury defender with only a few seconds left on the clock, sealing the victory for the visiting Eagles, 93-87.

“The team was down in the trenches,” said senior guard Art Christian. “We dug deep today, but it just wasn’t enough.”

Junior guard Gavin Rajahpillay led the charge for the Pioneers, finishing with 27 points on 53 percent shooting. Roberts notched 17 points, and senior forward Jaylen Mann dropped 14 points and snatched eight rebounds.

Christian said the team has to avoid going down on the scoreboard early.

“It’s real crucial,” Christian said. “At times like this where we have to play harder than we did in the first half, that tires us out.”

“We had hoped to piggyback from the last win,” Bubon said. “We played well for about 39 minutes, and that’s just not good enough.”

The Pioneers returned to the floor the following afternoon to take on RSC opponent Alice Lloyd College with the hopes of ending a five-game RSC losing streak.

The Pioneers were down early in the first half, as they trailed 37-29 after the first 20 minutes and shot 22 percent from the floor.

The Pioneers finished the game tallying 23 personal fouls that led to 24 points at the free throw line on 75 percent shooting for the Eagles.

Alice Lloyd pulled away from the Pioneers in the second half, and led by 18 points, 56-38, five minutes into the second half.

The Pioneers fell to Alice Lloyd, 72-62, dropping to 4-8 in RSC play.

Pleas tallied 22 points on 50 percent shooting, giving him at least 20 points in three of his last four games.

Point Park shot 28 percent from the field in the loss and 15 percent from long range. Alice Lloyd shot 40 percent from both the floor and from beyond the arc.

“They played a lot like us,” Bubon said. “They go through spurts where they don’t score, so we knew it would pretty much be back and forth. We just didn’t finish the way we wanted to.”

Junior forward Fousseini Konate managed a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. He blocked four shots in his 35 minutes of work to add to his team-leading 16 blocks.

Point Park will host its next two games as RSC play continues Friday and Saturday against Indiana University East and Ohio Christian.

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