IUP BASKETBALL: Women dispatch PSAC champs, advance to semifinals
ERIE — The IUP women’s basketball team went back to what worked, and it was just too much for Bloomsburg to handle.
Facing the newly crowned PSAC champion Huskies, a guard-oriented team heavy on 3-point shooting, IUP found offensive success going to its inside game while also dominating the rebounding. And in the end, the Crimson Hawks beat Bloomsburg, 72-59, on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Division II tournament at Gannon’s Hammermill Center.
IUP (23-8), which matched its win total from last season while reaching the region semifinals for the second straight year, plays host school Gannon (29-4) in the semifinals at 7:30 tonight. Glenville (W.Va.) State and California meet in today’s other semifinal, at 5 p.m.
The win marks the second consecutive season in which IUP has knocked out Bloomsburg in the opening round of the tournament.
The venue might have changed since the 2012 regional tournament — it was at Edinboro’s McComb Field House last year — but the same strategy paid off for IUP against the Huskies.
Using Bloomsburg’s lack of size in the low post to its advantage, IUP outscored the Huskies 30-18 in the paint and held a dominating 49-25 edge in rebounding.
At times, especially in the first half, IUP’s offense resembled a layup drill.
“The guards were really looking to pound it into the post, and it was a good all-around effort to spread the ball around,” sophomore forward Ashley Stoner said. “I think we were really effective in the paint, as the numbers show.”
“That’s something we feel like we’ve taken advantage of in the past,” IUP coach Jeff Dow said. “We have a lot of confidence in our post players and we run a lot of sets through our post players. We always want to establish our posts. … I think a lot of times what that does is it opens things up for people like Lindsay Stamp, Marita Mathe and Amy Fairman to get wide-open looks from 3.”
Each one of those players hit at least one 3-point field goal for IUP, perhaps none bigger than the back-to-back 3s from Mathe midway through the second half.
With IUP nursing a 51-49 lead, Mathe drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with 9:00 to play, and after a Bloomsburg turnover, she did it again at the 8:21 mark to give IUP a 57-49 lead.
“That was huge, obviously, to get a little bit of separation at that point in a game that was going back-and-forth,” Dow said. “I don’t think they ever caught us again from that point on. … That’s been Marita’s history in the short time she’s been at IUP. She makes a lot of clutch shots, a lot of clutch free throws and gives us a big lift. Not to mention the eight rebounds that she had playing the point guard position. … That gave us a big spark. There was a lot of plays that gave us a big spark, but those 3s were huge.”
“Credit Mathe. She’s a great shooter. We knew that,” said Bloomsburg coach Bill Cleary, who, a week ago, led Bloomsburg to its first PSAC title since 1992. “We were just slow on our rotation. She had a wide-open 3. And if you give her that look, she’s making it every time.”
Bloomsburg briefly cut the lead to six before Lindsay Stamp hit another 3, and the Crimson Hawks never allowed Bloomsburg to get closer than eight points over the final six minutes.
It was all part of a 9?-minute 23-8 run for IUP.
Stamp and Stoner scored 19 points apiece to lead the Crimson Hawks, and senior Sarah Pastorek added 11 points, leaving her four shy of 1,300 for her career.
Playing in her first NCAA tournament game, Stamp hit half of IUP’s eight 3s, but the sweetest part for the Erie native was getting to do it in front of her friends and family.
“It was so exciting to be able to play in front of a home crowd,” Stamp said. “I had a lot of family and friends there, so that was really cool. I like playing at Gannon. I’ve played here a lot of times so I’m definitely comfortable here. I’m excited for tomorrow.”
In a strong opening half, IUP shot 52 percent, led by as many as 11 points and looked to be ready to break the game open. But the Crimson Hawks committed 13 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes and led only 31-27 at halftime.
Although IUP didn’t quite cut down on its turnovers in the second half — the Crimson Hawks finished with 23 — they owned the boards.
IUP outrebounded Bloomsburg 29-11 after halftime, and 49-25 for the game.
“We always talk about getting extra possessions and on the other end, limiting the opponent to one shot,” Dow said. “I felt like when we went on runs, we kept getting second or third shots, and we kept holding them to one shot.”
That was never more evident than during a quick-hitting 7-0 run IUP mounted in less than a minute.
After Bloomsburg took a 45-43 lead with about 13 minutes to play, Melanie Todd made a pair of free throws, Stoner scored on a layup and Stamp hit a 3 — all in a span of 48 seconds — as IUP regained the lead for good. Mathe followed with her 3s less than three minutes later.
Meanwhile, IUP kept one of the PSAC’s better 3-point shooting teams in check, holding the Huskies to 4-for-17 shooting from deep range.
Catherine Noack, the team’s leading 3-point shooter, went 2-for-8. Kayla Oxenrider led Bloomsburg with 17 points, and Noack and Dana Wieller finished with 10 apiece.
IUP and Bloomsburg met for the fifth time in the past two seasons, including for the third time in the postseason.
The Crimson Hawks improved to 4-1 against the Huskies, and they’ve often used the same formula to win: rebound and pound the ball into the low post.
“I’m a big stats guy, or maybe a stats geek, if you will,” Dow said. “These guys know I’m always reciting the importance or the magnitude of certain statistical things of when we won versus when we lost. (Rebounding) was a big part of our three wins (over Bloomsburg) that we’ve had in the last two seasons coming into tonight. (And) now four wins out of the last five games just in the past two years.
“We’ve always had a pretty dominant effort on the boards. We felt like we had to do that again tonight to give ourselves a chance to win.”