IUP BASKETBALL: BLOOMSBURG 74, HAWKS 62 -- Crimson Hawks can't match Huskies' intensity
It’s hard to manufacture the kind of intensity Bloomsburg had Wednesday evening.
IUP gave the Huskies season-ending losses the previous two years and had won five of the teams’ previous six meetings. Fueled by a couple years’ worth of frustration, Bloomsburg had just a little bit more hop to its step, and the Crimson Hawks just couldn’t keep up down the stretch, and lost to the Huskies, 74-62, in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference crossover women’s basketball game at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.
IUP (11-2), which re-entered the NCAA Division II poll this week at No. 20, had its five-game winning streak snapped while giving up a season high in points.
“I don’t think we had our normal energy that we’d been playing with,” IUP coach Tom McConnell said. “We allowed them to get too many easy looks, whether it was backdoors, whether it was off the drive, that kind of stuff. We just kind of hit a wall, and they made some good plays and separated there. They made the plays. That was the difference. We just gave them too many easy ones.”
IUP had beaten Bloomsburg (10-3) in the first round of the NCAA Atlantic Regional tournament the last two years. Last year it came after the Huskies claimed the PSAC title. In 2012 it was after Bloomsburg had finally gotten a win against IUP, in the semifinals of the PSAC tournament.
“It’s the rivalry,” Bloomsburg coach Bill Cleary said. “I said to the kids as we were preparing for them, in order for it to be a rivalry, you’ve got to win a game. We were 1-5 in our last six games against them, so if you want this to be a rivalry, we’ve got to win. We got knocked out the last two years by IUP, so there’s some meaning here.”
There was little separation between the teams through the first 30 minutes, but Bloomsburg pulled away with a 14-3 run in the second half. The PSAC leader in field goal percentage entering Wednesday’s games, Bloomsburg shot 56.4 percent (13 of 23) in the second half, versus 37.5 percent (12 of 32) in the first. The Huskies outscored IUP 20-12 in the paint in the second half.
“They played very well and made the plays when they had to,” McConnell said.
“We knew with (losses to) Millersville, Shippensburg, Gannon, we learned from those games and we carried it over here,” said Cleary, who was a finalist for the IUP job over the summer after Jeff Dow’s dismissal. “In games past, we worried about the outcome. Today we didn’t worry about the outcome, we just worried about the next play, and we stayed with the next play and then the next play, and that was the difference.”
The PSAC’s leading scorer at 21.4 points per game, Lindsay Stamp led IUP with 28 points. Indiana High School graduate Leslie Stapleton added 14.
There was a big dropoff from there in the Hawks’ scoring, though. IUP’s offense lacked flow most of the game, and the Hawks finished with 32.8 percent (20 of 61) shooting.
“They did a good job of matching up with us and that kind of stuff,” McConnell said of Bloomsburg’s defense. “We don’t see that all the time, and they did a good job with that.
“Tonight we didn’t finish as well as we had. We got some good looks, got it inside, got a couple charges called on us, missed some layups — things that we can control. We can get better at that.”
Meanwhile, Bloomsburg had a little more balance in its scoring. Jocelyn Ford led the Huskies with 20 points, followed by Morgan Klunk with 12 and Catherine Noack with 11. They broke through after a blow-for-blow battle for most of the game.
“I remember looking up at the clock, thinking this thing’s taking forever,” Cleary said, “but with five minutes to go, it was still a four-point game. At the four-minute timeout, that’s when we said, just worry about right now, just worry about the moment. Against Gannon, Ship and Millersville, we worried about the end instead of worrying about what we had to do. (Against IUP) we executed well down the stretch.”
IUP played the second half without Marion Center graduate Amy Fairman, a starting guard who injured her back late in the first half.
“Right now we’ve got to get healthy,” McConnell said. “We’re battling some illness. We didn’t have our same energy that we normally have.”
The coach was unsure, but optimistic, about Fairman’s status.
“We’re not sure at this point,” he said. “Her back was hurting her. She’ll be evaluated tonight and tomorrow. Hopefully it’s nothing major and we’ll get her back for Saturday.”
IUP’s loss was its first in just more than a month, though breaks for final exams and the holidays fell in that stretch. The Hawks face a tighter schedule the rest of the way out, exclusively in PSAC West Division play for the remainder of the regular season. IUP visits Mercyhurst on Saturday afternoon.
“We’re disappointed because we know we’re capable of playing better,” McConnell said. “That’s our focus right now, just come in tomorrow and let’s really grow from this. … We’ll come back and play good basketball on Saturday. I know the character of this group.”