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Penn College Men’s Cagers Receive USCAA National Tournament Bid

Hard work pays off. That’s how Pennsylvania College of Technology men’s basketball coach Gene Bruno responded after his team was awarded a bid in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Championships.

“That’s huge,” Bruno said of the opportunity to play in the USCAA tournament during his team’s first year in the conference. “The kids have worked real hard to put themselves in that position. We’re ranked seventh as far as power rating. That probably helped.”

The Wildcats (16-10) are seeded ninth in a 10-team field. They open play in the double-elimination tournament at 8 p.m. Wednesday against No. 8 Maine-Augusta (16-6) at Penn State Greater Allegheny in McKeesport.

“It’s a good opportunity for us. We’re real excited about it,” Bruno continued. “What they did throughout the year (setting a college single-season record with 16 wins) and the level of competition (the schedule included six NCAA Division III or II opponents), that’s what makes it so nice. They were rewarded for hard work. I’m very happy.”

For the season, the Wildcats have scored 2,123 points, an average of 81.7 per game, and allowed 2,071, an average of 79.6. Leroy Joiner (freshman/Williamsport) leads the team in scoring with 454 points (17.5 average), followed by Greg Solyak (sophomore/Lancaster) with 358 (13.7), Joe Simon (junior/Renovo) 328 (12.6), Craig Flint (senior/Port Allegany) 301 (13.1) and Tom Little (senior/Beacon Falls, Conn.) 271 (10.4). Other top contributors have been Mike Knepp (junior/Swiftwater), Phil Kaylor (sophomore/Lebanon) and Wyatt Decker (freshman/Dushore).

In the most recent United States Collegiate Athletic Association men’s Division II poll, Penn College is ranked No. 8. In all, the USCAA has 65 member schools.

Having topped the 100-point mark four times this season, offense has not been a problem for the Wildcats, but they have given up nearly as many points. Going into the national tournament, Bruno looks to change things up.

“We need to score a lot of points. We don’t stop people. Quite honestly, we need to score 90 points. We’re not real big. We’re limited on offensive second shots. We’ve got to rely on our transition game and up-tempo game,” said the coach, in his 13th season.

“We’re going to work real hard on our pressing game and our transition game. I think we’re pressing the whole week out there. They’re going to get film on us and see us switching defenses, but I’m going to change some things around,” Bruno added.

Other teams, their records and their seeds in the tournament are: Williamson Trade School (24-1), No. 1; Penn State Beaver (21-5), the PSUAC champ, No. 2; Andrews University (14-10), No. 3; Vermont Tech (18-10), No. 4; Penn State Hazleton (17-11), No. 5; UC Clermont (15-15), No. 6; Central Maine CC (16-6), No. 7; and host team Penn State Fayette (1-24), No. 10.

If Penn College wins its Wednesday opener, it will face No. 1 Williamson at 8 p.m. Thursday. Should the Wildcats drop their first game, they will face either Central Maine or Penn State Fayette at 10 p.m. Thursday.

Tournament action continues at both Penn State Greater Allegheny and Penn State Fayette through Saturday, March 7.

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