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IUP BASKETBALL: EDINBORO 66, HAWKS 59 -- Women's losing streak reaches five games

by By Tony Coccagna, tonyc@indianagazette.net on January 23, 2014 10:39 AM

EDINBORO — IUP made a strong run at the top team in the conference, but it wasn’t quite enough to pull off an upset and end its losing streak.

IUP battled back from and 11-point deficit to forge a tie, but Edinboro ended the game on an 11-4 run to hand the Crimson Hawks a 66-59 loss, their fifth straight, and extended its winning streak to eight games in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division women’s basketball game Wednesday night.

IUP is marred in its longest losing streak since dropping seven games to end the 2004-05 season.

“We did enough good things that put ourselves in position to win the basketball game,” IUP coach Tom McConnell said, “but we just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch. There are a lot of things to build on and take from here, but we’re disappointed in the outcome.”

IUP (11-6, 2-5), playing its first game without leading scorer Lindsay Stamp, who suffered an ankle injury in Saturday’s 69-63 loss to California, turned in a spirited effort, but it wasn’t enough to stop Edinboro (13-3, 7-0), the hottest team in the conference. Valerie Majewski, a junior guard, scored 24 points, including the go-ahead bucket on a layup with 2:40 remaining, and Aignee Freeland, a 6-foot-3 sophomore center, led an inside attack by scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds as Edinboro outscored IUP 38-20 in points in the paint. The two combined on 18-for-30 shooting from the floor.

“One of the differences in the game for Edinboro was Freeland,” McConnell said. “She dominated inside and got some things on the glass. We made some adjustments later in the game that made it tougher for her, but early on she was great.”

IUP led five times in the first half, trailed by four, 32-28, at halftime and fell into an 11-point hole, 39-28, in the first 2ᄑ minutes of the second half.

Leslie Stapleton stepped up in Stamp’s absence in the first half and scored 13 of her team-high 16 points, and Talen Watson came on strong by scoring 11 of her 13 points in a six-minute stretch late in the second half. She also handed out a team-high five assists.

After Marita Mathe scored on two free throws and a 3-pointer, Watson made two free throws that completed a 7-0 run and tied the game at 55 with 3:48 to play.

She tied it again with a jumper at 3:07, but Edinboro ended the game on a 9-2 run, with Watson getting IUP’s only bucket down the stretch.

Mathe finished with 11 points.

“We definitely went out there and battled and showed everyone we know we’re a good team, we’re just in a slump,” Mathe said. “We battled the whole way. We just need to get the mindset back to what it’s like to win games, and we’ll be able to do great things from here on out.”

IUP will have to do that without Stamp, who could be out as long as four weeks with ligament damage in her right ankle. She averages 18.7 points per game. With Stamp out, senior forward Melanie Todd stepped in and played 26 minutes, more than triple her season average, and finished with a team-high nine rebounds.

“We talked about it,” Mathe said, “and we know we all had to come together as a team without our leading scorer and had to contribute in some kind of way to try and get a win.”

“We have to keep pushing,” Stapleton said. “Like Coach says, when you’re cutting down a tree it’s not the first hit. We have to keep axing our way through it. We’ve just got to keep pushing and trying to get through this slump.”

IUP’s next chance to end the skid is Saturday at home against Slippery Rock. Slippery Rock improved to 4-14 overall and 1-7 in the PSAC West by knocking off Seton Hill, 75-70 in overtime, at home on Wednesday.

“We just want to come out and fight,” McConnell said. “We want to be a determined basketball team that plays with verve and spirit and plays hard. The other stuff will work itself out if we do that. This is a high-character group of young women, and they’re going to come out and play hard and play for each other play to the best of their ability. They’re disappointed right now, but they know what they’re capable of, and they’re very determined to come out and play good basketball down the stretch.”

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