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Slow starts hurt men’s basketball in pair of non-conference road games

Senior+guard+Gavin+Rajahpillay+prepares+to+shoot+a+foul+shot+against+Indiana+University+%28IU%29+East+last+season.+Rajahpillay+scored+388+points+last+season.
Senior guard Gavin Rajahpillay prepares to shoot a foul shot against Indiana University (IU) East last season. Rajahpillay scored 388 points last season.

Senior guard Gavin Rajahpillay prepares to shoot a foul shot against Indiana University (IU) East last season. Rajahpillay scored 388 points last season.

Photo by Sam Robinson | Point Park Athletics

Photo by Sam Robinson | Point Park Athletics

Senior guard Gavin Rajahpillay prepares to shoot a foul shot against Indiana University (IU) East last season. Rajahpillay scored 388 points last season.

Written By Derek Malush

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The Point Park men’s basketball team played catch up all week as the Pioneers came up short in their second contest of the season to the Washington Adventist Shock last Monday, 86-72.

“We came out a little lethargic” head coach Gabe Bubon said. “I blame myself for not putting the right people in the right places.”

The Pioneers shot 11 of 40 from the field in the first half as they saw themselves staring down the barrel of a 20-point deficit after 20 minutes of play.

Point Park accumulated 11 of its 18 turnovers and gave up five three-pointers all in the first half that aided in its slow start.

“We’re still trying to get used to each other, but at the same time are trying to be unselfish,” senior guard Gavin Rajahpillay said.

The Pioneer bench was vital in the second half as they began storming back by dropping 47 points in the final 20 minutes. They pulled within 10 points with 2 minutes to go, but never came within single digits of the Shock.

Nebraska Community College transfer Michael Connor dropped 11 points off the bench as Rajahpillay was in foul trouble.

The team was led however by Rajahpillay who finished with 28 points along with Aaron Barlow, who tallied his second-straight double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds off the bench.

Four Pioneers, including junior Asim Pleas who scored in 10 points of his own, ended the game scoring in double figures.

“I see passion in this team,” Bubon said. “Talk to me after the sixth game of the season and you will see who we really are.”

Point Park traveled to Penn State-Greater Allegheny two days later for another non-conference game.

The Pioneers could not hold on in the final minutes of the game Wednesday night as they dropped their second game in a row losing 82-77.

“We are still tinkering with the lineups and finding our true identity,” Bubon said.

The Pioneers hit a scoring drought midway through the first half as they were on the wrong side of a 21-3 run.

Despite being down 31-13 in the first half, the Pioneers found themselves down by only 12 points at the end of the first 20 minutes.

Once again facing adversity coming into the second half, the Pioneers came out of the locker room hot  as they started the half on a 17-5 run to make it a one-point game at 51-50.

“It all comes down to pride, confidence, and feeling like we can get back into any game,” Pleas said about coming out of the half.

They captured their biggest lead of the game at 66-62 with the help of a 14-2 Pioneer run with 9 minutes to go, but could not hold on until the final buzzer.

Rajahpillay tied the game 73-73 with under four minutes to go, but PSU-Greater Allegheny’s Jordan Payne quickly answered with a clutch three-pointer that gave them the lead for good.

“This is the happiest I’ve ever been after a loss because I know what we are capable of,” Bubon said.

The Pioneers had another rough night shooting the ball as they finished shooting 38 percent from the floor and 1-for-8 at the free throw line.

“I missed two of those free throws and next game we’re definitely going to come out better at the line,” junior forward Aaron Barlow said.

The team was led by sophomore guard Daniel King who dropped 19 points to lead all scorers.

Pleas added some firepower of his own by notching a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Pioneers.

“Winning the first game was the worst thing for us and losing on Wednesday was the best thing for us,” Bubon said. “It gave us false hope winning game one and losing game three gave the team the drive they needed.”

The Pioneers are 1-2 on the season as they play their next game Tuesday night at NCAA Division II Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio for a 7 p.m. tipoff. The Pioneers then travel to the Buffalo State Tournament this weekend, with their first game against the University of Maine at Fort-Kent on Friday night.

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