IUP BASKETBALL: HAWKS 87, NOTRE DAME (OHIO) 70 -- Balanced IUP men roll in home opener
November 17, 2013 1:35 AM
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Mathis Keita and Marcel Souberbielle continued to do their thing for the IUP basketball team.

So did Devante Chance and Devon Cottrell.

Keita and Souberbielle combined to score 45 points, Chance turned in another solid performance as the newly installed starting point guard, and Cottrell continued to emerge as post presence in IUP’s 87-70 victory over Notre Dame (Ohio) in the home opener at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex in front of 1,800 fans Saturday night.

While Keita and Souberbielle are the senior leaders, Chance is the player that runs the show, and Cottrell is growing into his position as a starting center. Chance, a 5-foot-10 junior, reached double figures in scoring for the second straight game and handed out five assists to raise his total to 11. He also came up with three steals.

Cottrell, a 6-6 redshirt sophomore, nearly reached a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds. He grabbed seven rebounds and blocked five shots in a season-opening win Wednesday.

“We have some guys evolving,” IUP coach Joe Lombardi said. “Devante continues to play very much in control and is doing a terrific job running the team, and Devon is growing up as a guy that can finish in the paint, and he really didn’t do that last year. So he’s gaining confidence and getting better, and he was really active rebounding the ball and got some rebounds in crowds.”

After last season, Chance, a native of Philadelphia, sat down with Lombardi to discuss areas in which he needed to improve. That discussion focused on shooting, and Chance has come through. He made 6 of 7 shots last night and is 10-for-14 on the season.

“After last season, Coach stressed about making open shots,” Chance said, “so I practiced my jump shot in different ways: coming off curls, catch-and-shoot, flares. The majority of it was just to get my jump shot to another level and just keep working and try to get my whole game to another level, but my jump shot was my main priority in the offseason.”

Leadership also figured into the discussion, and that is another role Chance has grasped.

“He has to be that solid guy for us,” Souberbielle said. “He takes ownership in being a leader on this team, and he controls the offense and defense, and he’s being a voice outside and on the court. I respect him because of that and because he’s a great player.”

Most of Chance’s scoring has come on jumpers, and most of his assists have been ordinary passes. On Saturday he made two spectacular plays, dishing a no-look pass to Cottrell in the low post and later zipping one to Keita that somehow split two defenders at the basket to complete a fast break.

“He’s in a zone,” Cottrell said. “He’s in a zone I’ve never seen before. He was probably the hardest-working guy in the offseason. He’s another reason I felt I made improvement because he and my teammates were getting on me a lot to get in the gym and get better, and he was always in the gym trying to get better.”

Cottrell, a Gateway High School product, also made 6 of 7 shots while finishing around the basket and hitting a couple 8-foot baseline jumpers. Cottrell, who averaged 11 minutes of playing time in 31 of 32 games last year and averaged 2.1 points and 2.4 rebounds, also undertook an offseason workout program.

“I just worked every day,” he said. “I was in the gym two times a day. My teammates are the big reason. They just encouraged me and were always telling me I had the potential and to keep working. I kept in touch with them all summer and they kept telling me to work. They were the best part in my improvement.”

Most of that encouragement came from Chance, his roommate.

“Driz is my main man,” Chance said, using Cottrell’s nickname. “We’ve been waiting for Driz to come out of his shell. He has a high motor, and he’s a great rebounder. We were just waiting for him to come out of his shell and perform how we knew he could.”

Cottrell joined the program three years ago after helping lead Gateway to its first WPIAL title. He sat out as a redshirt his first season and played for the first time last year.

“His confidence level is much higher right now,” Souberbielle said. “It’s his third year in the program, so now he’s more familiar with what his work ethic has to be. I’ve seen him improve much more and work out more and that leads to more confidence. I can see he’s more comfortable out there offensively, and that was the main issue he had to work on.”

IUP took the lead early against Notre Dame, which is in its second season as an NCAA Division II program, and built a 20-point lead late in the first half. The Crimson Hawks extended the margin to 22 early in the second half and let it slip to 14 only briefly.

The Falcons came into the game averaging 85 points on 48 percent shooting in their first two games. IUP held them to 38.5 percent shooting and 15 points below their scoring average. Lawrence DeArmond and Tyree Gaiter, a pair of small, quick guards, combined for 37 points.

“It was nice that we held them 15 under their average,” Lombardi said, “and we were good defensively in spurts, but we didn’t put our whole defensive game together, They’re one of the quicker teams we’ll play all year, and that bothered us a little bit.”

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