Turnover woes aside, the IUP women’s basketball team implemented coach Tom McConnell’s team-first philosophies with fluidity and precision from the jump against Millersville on Tuesday.
McConnell strolled into the locker room satisfied as the Crimson Hawks — 10 days removed from their first loss of the season — banded together offensively and defensively to build a 22-point first-half lead and all but dash the Marauders’ spirits.
IUP maintained no less than a 13-point lead the rest of the way and got back to its winning ways with a 70-50 victory in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference game at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.
IUP (7-1) plays host to once-beaten Shippensburg in another PSAC crossover game at 5:30 p.m. today.
“I thought we were very focused and very sharp from the beginning,” McConnell said. “We executed on offense, we shared the basketball, and we did a really good job of guarding. We always talk about growing and enjoying the process of growth, and from our last game 10 days ago, we’ve definitely taken positive steps, especially in terms of defensive growth.
“That’s a team (Millersville) that came in averaging about 80 points per game. They’re a good offensive team with some skilled scorers, so I’ve got to give our girls a lot of credit for really guarding tonight.”
IUP guard Lindsay Stamp, the leading scorer in the PSAC, made her first five field goal attempts, one of which was a 3-pointer, and scored 13 points in the opening 7:40 of the game. Stamp buried a jump shot to put the Hawks ahead by nine points, 15-6, with 13:20 to play in the first half.
Roughly three minutes later, IUP forward Ashley Stoner made a layup in transition to stretch the Hawks’ lead to 12 points, 21-9, with 10:08 left in the first half.
But three straight IUP turnovers sparked an 8-0 Millersville burst as the Marauders cut the Hawks’ lead to four points, 21-17, with 8:30 to play in the half.
IUP countered and got 3s on consecutive possessions from guard Leslie Stapleton and point guard Talen Watson to establish a 10-point lead, 27-17, with 7:32 remaining.
The Crimson Hawks didn’t stop.
Watson hit another 3-pointer with 2:54 to go to make it a 21-point game, 40-19. Guard Amy Fairman then nailed a 3 to stretch IUP’s lead to 22 points, 43-21, with 2:18 remaining.
Watson, starting in place of injured point guard and Indiana native Marita Mathe, finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists.
“I’m pretty confident stepping into that role. I embrace it,” Watson said. “I’m just looking forward to taking what she’s done and the success she’s had and applying it to my game. I’m very confident with the role, though.”
Stamp gave IUP its biggest lead of the night when she made a nifty, spinning layup 1:51 into the second half to make it a 23-point game, 47-24.
Stamp made just 1 of 7 field goals after making her first five attempts in the first half. She finished with a game-high 15 points, her lowest single-game output of the season.
“I missed some easy shots and some easy layups,” Stamp, who scored 20 points or more in each of IUP’s first seven games, said. “But that’s when everyone else started to contribute. There were a lot of people scoring and we had a lot of people up there in points and assists. Everyone contributed to this win.”
Millersville’s Celeste Robinson made a layup in transition with 13:45 left to cap a 10-0 run and trim her team’s deficit to 13 points, 47-34.
But in the last 13 minutes of the game, seven players — Stoner, forward Melanie Todd, Stapleton, forward Zhane Brooks, guard Alexis Aiken, Fairman and guard Lisa Burton — each mustered a field goal to allow the Hawks to maintain at least a 15-point lead.
“We dug ourselves a hole that we couldn’t get out of,” Millersville coach Mary Fleig said. “Both teams were a little rusty with 10 days off, and it was pretty ugly there at times on both sides, but we weren’t able to take advantage of our turnover situations.
“They got baskets off their turnovers and we didn’t, and that was a big difference tonight.”
IUP made 27 of 53 shots from the field (50 percent) and Millersville made 18 of 60 (30 percent). The Hawks outrebounded the Marauders, 39-36.
Fairman, a Marion Center graduate, notched nine points, nabbed a team-high three steals and dished out a game-high seven assists. Brooks grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, Stoner scored 12 points, and Stapleton, who graduated high school alongside Mathe, added eight points and two steals.