Behrend flying high below the radar

More news about: Penn State-Behrend
Zane Hackett is an engineering major, and a highlight waiting to happen.
Penn State-Behrend athletics photo

Despite its sterling 17-2 record and current six-game winning streak Penn State-Behrend is nowhere to be found in the latest Top 25 poll. Not in the poll or receiving any votes.

To some, that slight would be cause for “No Respect” slogans, angry emails, text messages and tweets. However, PSU-Behrend is cut from a different cloth and it is perfectly content flying under the radar. While the national recognition would be welcomed, the Lions have methodically gone about their business of winning games and shutting down their opponents.

Two-time Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference kingpin PSU-Behrend is cruising toward its third consecutive 20-win season under veteran coach Dave Niland following Wednesday’s 67-47 victory over Pitt-Bradford. With one more win, the Lions will match the 2010-11 team that started the season 18-2. The best start in program history belongs to the 1968-69 and 2003-04 teams, each of whom began their seasons with 20-1 records.

The Lions are winning the old-fashioned way – by locking up opponents like the Department of Corrections. PSU-Behrend is third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 55.8 points per game. The Lions have held 12 of their 19 opponents below 60 points this season. Seven of those teams have failed to score 50 points. The Lions limited LaRoche to 30 points last Saturday.

PSU-Behrend’s style of play is tenacious, old school and a pleasure to watch especially if you’re fan of teamwork, making the extra pass, and rebounding. Sticking to opponents like body odor, the Lions are balanced and versatile.

“We’re not surprised about our start to the season because we had high expectations coming into the year,” Nick DeLisio said. “We had a lot of guys returning and guys who played last year so we expected to pretty good. However, we understand that there’s still a lot of basketball remaining and we don’t want to get too overconfident.”

DeLisio, a four-year starter, is averaging 14.2 points per game, loves playing defense more than scoring. PSU-Behrend’s top scorer is Zane Hackett, who scores at a 15.4 point per game clip. Keith Wallace, a human handcuff, is PSU-Behrend’s all-time steals leader. He set the new school standard during an 88-76 win over Medaille. Wallace is also averaging 9.3 points per game.

According to DeLisio, Hackett is an instant highlight at times. Just to provide their fans some exciting moments and some possible Instagram video moments, Hackett has thrown down a few rim-rocking dunks this season.

Hackett’s 20 points and 10 rebounds powered PSU-Behrend’s latest win over Pitt-Bradford. It’s just a continuation of a memorable few games for him. He was named Allegheny Mountain Conference and ECAC South co-Player of the Week after averaging 20 points per game on 70.6 percent shooting from the field.

“He’s real athletic and is an engineering major,” DeLisio said. “We’re playing with a stud and he’s pretty explosive. We feed him in the post.”

However, the bedrock of the Lions is their defense.

The Lions spend most of their practices enhancing their defensive principles, tightening traps, doing defensive slide drills, thinking, breathing and learning defense. That translates over to the games where PSU-Behrend will always give itself a chance to win because of the confidence it has in its ability to keep opponents from getting comfortable and scoring consistently.

“We stress defense at practice all the time,” sophomore forward Wes Davic said. “We just played LaRoche and held them to 11 points in the first half. Playing defense is sometimes forcing a team into taking a good shot or a bad shot. We obviously, want them to take more bad ones than good ones because bad shots are like turnovers. We know what we’re capable of as a team and we believe if we guard like that, we’ll go far in March.”

Davic’s rebounding prowess has already taken him a long way this year. He has developed into one of the best rebounders in Division III, currently ranked fourth in the nation with an 11.6 rebound per game average. He has 12 double-digit rebounding games this season along with nine double-doubles.

Davic started the season with an eye-popping 18-point, 19-rebound performance against Thiel. Not bad for somebody who essentially taught himself the needed nuance in becoming an elite rebounder. Davic was fortunate that he had friends who preferred staying in the house playing video games instead of coming outside to play a game of rough touch or hide-and-seek.

Davic made his own fun.

“I would throw the football in the air and tap it around to myself,” Davic said. “I tip the rebound first and then I catch it. It’s a weird tip but it works though. It was fun playing football by myself. I don’t pay attention to stats and I try to have fun every time I am on the floor. I know my effort pumps my teammates up so I try to bring that every time I hit the floor. Instead of scoring 20 points; I have a goal of getting 20 rebounds. It’s the dirty work that most people don’t want to do, but I enjoy it.”

Behrend's resume

When a Top 25 voter looks at Penn State-Behrend for inclusion on their ballot, here's what they'd see:

Nov. 19 Thiel (11-8) W, 74-63
Nov. 25 Westminster (Pa.) (4-12) W, 80-74
Nov. 29 at Allegheny (9-9) W, 63-51
Dec. 3 D'Youville (6-13) W, 67-57
Dec. 6 at La Roche (1-18) W, 57-40
Dec. 10 at Fredonia State (1-14) W, 71-48
Dec. 13 Penn State-Altoona (5-14) W, 71-43
Dec. 28 William Paterson (16-2) (n) L, 71-58
Dec. 29 Misericordia (14-4) (n) W, 53-42
Jan. 3 at Pitt-Bradford (10-8) W, 57-40
Jan. 7 Carnegie Mellon (10-6) W, 69-57
Jan. 10 at Franciscan (Ohio) (4-13) W, 67-59
Jan. 11 at Pitt-Greensburg (9-9) L, 80-67
Jan. 14 at Medaille (12-5) W, 88-76
Jan. 17 Mount Aloysius (7-12) W, 75-66
Jan. 19 at Hilbert (13-5) W, 73-52
Jan. 22 at D'Youville (6-13) W, 71-65
Jan. 24 La Roche (1-18) W, 57-30
Jan. 28 Pitt-Bradford (10-8) W, 67-47

Davic didn’t play much last season as PSU-Behrend advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament after surprising Hope in overtime last season. The bitter taste of the season-ending defeat to Wooster has motivated the Lions this season as they understand nothing is guaranteed.

“We told our guys at the start of the season that (beating Hope) was a tremendous accomplishment, but it’s all about what we’re doing today,” Niland said. “That’s over with and we have to be able to perform now. I know we’re going to have to get better if we want to accomplish our goals. We’re a little inconsistent offensively. The guys are working hard and always looking to get better from an individual and team standpoint.”

Some like to point out that the AMCC isn’t the strongest league in the country, which could be a reason why the Lions aren’t anywhere near the Top 25 poll. Their two losses this season have been to 25th-ranked William Paterson and on the road in conference Pitt-Greensburg. The conference has an overall mark in non-conference games this year of 26-41.

Even still, PSU-Behrend’s consistent success shouldn’t be dismissed. Sometimes being the top dog in a conference is hard work especially when you get everybody’s best game.

“We know every game we play in conference there’s a big target on our back,” DeLisio said. “So that makes those games that much more difficult for us. We know every game in our conference is going to be tough and we like that challenge each time we take the floor. The thing about our conference is anybody can beat anybody and we have to come prepared.”

Of course, if PSU-Behrend continues winning, it will eventually catch the eye of the voters. But even if it doesn’t, the experienced and talented Lions will keep playing with a chip on their shoulders and sticking to their core principles of defense, defense and more defense.

Rebounding queens

It was a big week for some of the nation’s top rebounders who turned in performances to remember.

Arcadia’s Addy Crenny and Illinois College’s Hannah McGinnis combined to grab an astounding 84 missed shots in four games.

Crenny delivered a 17-point, 26-rebound and seven blocked shot effort against Widener in a 74-64 win. The points and rebounds were school records. Crenny was named the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III South Women's Basketball Player of the Week and Commonwealth Conference Player of the Week. Her 26 rebounds against the Pride tied her for third in MAC history. During a perfect week for Arcadia, she averaged 17.5 points and 19.5 rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent (14-27) from the field and making each of her seven free throws.

Crenny is averaging 13.9 points and a Commonwealth Conference-leading 13.5 rebounds per game. She leads the MAC and is tied for seventh nationally with 13 double-doubles this season, and ranks 11th in Division III in rebounding.

Meanwhile, McGinnis was also a monster on the glass, finishing with 35 points along with a Midwest Conference record 27 rebounds in an 89-62 victory over Knox. That effort earned McGinnis a spot on this week’s Team of the Week for the second time this season. During the win over Knox, Illinois also grabbed a school-record 76 rebounds.

The senior forward averaged 30.5 points, 21.5 rebounds and shot .688 from the field in helping the Illinois College women's basketball team split a pair of contests against Knox College and Carroll University. McGinnis tops the MWC in scoring (20.4) and rebounding (13.4), and is among the Top 10 in the conference in field goal percentage (.516), steals (2.2) and minutes played (32.0). 

Aurora College freshman Morgan Ricketts grabbed 21 rebounds in a 67-43 win over Dominican Wednesday night. She is averaging 10 rebounds per game and has grabbed at least 10 or more rebounds in four of her last five games.

She is third in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference behind Wisconsin Lutheran’s Kristen Schulz (14.3 per game) and Alverno’s Mollie Mikyska (10.3). Schulz has pulled down at least 20 rebounds three times this season, including a season-high 21 against George Fox. Schulz has finished with double-figure rebounds in 17 of her team’s 18 games.

Special Saturday at Juniata

This coming Saturday January 31, the Juniata men's basketball team will host a "Shaq the House" to benefit team member Shaquill Smith and his family.  The men and women entertain Landmark rival Drew University in an afternoon doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m.

On Oct. 23, Smith became critically ill.  After being rushed to the Altoona Regional hospital, he was life-flighted to UPMC Presbyterian where he spent several weeks in their Intensive Care Unit. Now home, Smith continues to require almost daily therapy and medical treatment.  Smith continues to make steady progress toward recovery but the road is long and his challenges many.

In an effort to recognize and support Smith and his family, the Juniata Men' Basketball team plans to welcome Shaq back to campus for the first time since the onset of his illness. All proceeds from the game will go to help Smith and his family and he will be recognized before the start of the men's game.

“We are all very excited to have Shaq back on campus, in the locker room, and with his teammates,” said head men's basketball coach Greg Curley. “He is an inspiration to all of us and a reminder of how precious every day, every practice, every game, every opportunity is for all of us. Despite everything he has faced, he remains positive, upbeat, and determined to get back to Juniata and back to the game he loves. He is a special person with a special spirit, and a true inspiration to all of us.”

Please join us in support of Shaquill and his family and help Juniata basketball "Shaq the House."  For more information or to purchase t-shirts or make a donation please contact the men's basketball office at814-641-3523 or A Go Fund Me Site has been set up to support Shaquill and his family. Click on to donate. 


Manchester’s Matt Brown registered his eighth consecutive double-digit outing with 29 points during a 92-87 victory over Earlham. Brown has scored 20 or more points four times during his double-digit stretch. ... New Jersey City senior guard Jourdan Roberson scored a career-high 27 points in a 100-70 New Jersey Athletic Conference romp over Kean. It was the first time NJCU reached the 50-point threshold in the first half of a conference game since the 2006-07 season. ...  Senior guard Ben Coleman drained a three-pointer as time expired to propel Gallaudet to a thrilling 60-57 victory over reigning three-time NEAC champion Morrisville. ... Hope’s Maura McAfee scored a season-high 26 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in a 65-48 win at Adrian. ... Millikin’s Yip Ypya scored 18 points to help the Big Blue rally for an 80-75 victory over Augustana. ...  Senior All-American Kyra Dayon scored 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out two assists to lead reigning NCAA champion and No. 1 ranked FDU-Florham to its 50th consecutive victory, a 93-48 conquest of Wilkes. The Devils winning streak is the longest active streak in all of women’s college basketball, regardless of level.

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Ryan Scot

Ryan Scott serves as the lead columnist for and previously wrote the Mid-Atlantic Around the Region column in 2015 and 2016. He's a long-time D-III basketball supporter and former player currently residing in Middletown, Del., where he serves as a work-at-home dad, doing freelance writing and editing projects. He has written for multiple publications across a wide spectrum of topics. Ryan is a graduate of Eastern Nazarene College.
Previous columnists:
2014-16: Rob Knox
2010-13: Brian Falzarano
2010: Marcus Fitzsimmons
2008-2010: Evans Clinchy
Before 2008: Mark Simon