IUP BASKETBALL: HAWKS 70, CLARION 45 -- Women races away from short-handed Eagles
CLARION — Struggling to sink shots from beyond the 3-point field goal arc surprisingly didn’t hinder the IUP women’s basketball team against Clarion on Saturday.
Truth be told, the Crimson Hawks outplayed the Golden Eagles in every other facet of the game, nabbing a small lead just over seven minutes into the contest before controlling the action the rest of the way.
IUP quietly built a 13-point halftime lead and then opened the second half on a 21-5 run to thrash the Eagles, 70-45, in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division game at Tippin Gymnasium.
The Hawks improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the division. IUP travels to Oakdale, N.Y., to take on last year’s NCAA Division II runner-up, Dowling College, on Tuesday.
“We knew they could score so they really had our attention this week,” first-year IUP coach Tom McConnell said.
“We knew if we were going to have any success at all we were going to have to come in and really guard them. I thought it was a great team defensive effort across the board.”
Clarion guard Kelly Johnson hit a layup in transition 6:51 into the game to give the Eagles a 10-9 lead, their last of the game.
Then, IUP forward Zhané Brooks sparked a 10-0 burst by scoring eight of her nine points in a span of less than four minutes to put the Hawks ahead 20-10 with 8:38 to play in the first half.
“I think I’m just able to contribute sometimes when my teammates are creating options. They do a great job of finding me and then I just work my game,” said Brooks, who added four rebounds and two blocks.
IUP guard and the team’s leading scorer, Lindsay Stamp, drilled 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, the second of which gave the Hawks a 28-15 lead with 5:06 left in the first half.
The Eagles fell behind by 18 points, 33-15, before finishing the half on a 5-0 burst. Johnson was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer at the buzzer and made 2 of 3 free-throw attempts to trim IUP’s lead to 33-20.
“They made their layups and did a good job of penetrating the key and kicking it out to their shooters and taking it all the way to the hole,” Clarion coach Gie Parsons said. “We didn’t do a good job of coming out to their top foot and pushing them out of the key, plus we didn’t make our layups.
“That disparity just gave them a nice run and they never looked back.”
Five points apiece from Stamp and point guard Marita Mathe, and four points each from guards Talen Watson and Leslie Stapleton helped the Hawks mount a 21-5 spurt to open the second half, stretching their lead to 54-27. Less than five minutes later, guard Marina Wareham buried one of IUP’s six 3s to give the Hawks their biggest lead, 63-34.
“We just wanted to come out with a strong start in the second half,” McConnell said. “We wanted to come out right away and send a message that the second half was going to be ours, and we did that by playing hard and getting off to a quick start.”
Stamp, who scored 21 points Saturday and a career-high 35 points in IUP’s win over Pitt Johnstown on Wednesday, talked about assuming a concrete leadership role on a team that includes a slew of playmakers.
“I think that role is coming out more and more as they year goes on,” said Stamp, who added eight rebounds, two assists and a block. “We definitely have a lot of leaders on this team and a lot of people who are vocal and have experience. There’s just a lot of people stepping up this year.”
IUP guard and Marion Center graduate Amy Fairman led the Hawks’ defensively with two steals and a game-high 11 rebounds, seven of which came on the defensive glass.
IUP made just 6 of 27 3-pointers but outrebounded Clarion, 59-32.
“Clarion is a really, really good offensive team,” McConnell said. “We had to get back in transition because they’re really good at running the floor and spotting up and hitting 3s. … We needed to know where they were at all times and that’s why we kept saying, ‘Keep your head on a swivel. Keep your head on a swivel.’”
IUP forward Ashley Stoner chipped in 11 points and nine rebounds. Stapleton, an Indiana graduate, collected seven points, six rebounds and an assist, and Mathe, who graduated high school alongside Stapleton, added five points, six rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal.
Heading into the game, Clarion had amassed 90 points in back-to-back wins for the first time since 2004. The Hawks not only limited the Eagles to a season-low in points, they also held Clarion’s top two scorers to a combined 13 points. Guard Emma Fickel came in averaging 20 points per game and scored nine, and Johnson, who averaged 15.3 points per game, scored four points.
Clarion forward Hannah Heeter, who averaged 14.4 points per game and 13.3 rebounds per game last year, is still playing volleyball on the Golden Eagles’ PSAC West Division championship team and has yet to suit up for a basketball game.