IUP BASKETBALL: CRIMSON HAWKS 68, CLARION 47 -- Men take Clarion's best shot, improve to 4-0
CLARION — The IUP Crimson Hawks can take a punch.
Until Saturday night, coach Joe Lombardi wasn’t sure what would happen to his team when it took an opponent’s best shot.
Now he knows.
Clarion hit IUP with its best shot, cutting a 15-point halftime deficit to five near the midway point of the second half, and the Hawks responded with a blow that knocked out the Golden Eagles in a 68-47 victory in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division basketball game at Tippin Gymnasium.
IUP used a 15-2 run to stretch the lead to 18 points with 6:02 to play, cruised to its fourth win without a loss and improved to 2-0 in the PSAC. Clarion fell to 1-2 and 0-2 with its second straight loss.
“I’m not upset at all with how the game went,” Lombardi said. “We hadn’t taken a punch yet. We’ve gone out every game and gotten a big lead and had a double-digit lead at halftime and kind of played in a comfort zone. It’s nice that we got challenged. I wanted to see how the guys would respond.”
IUP covered for an off shooting night by dominating the rebounding by 20, 47-27, against a quicker but smaller Clarion lineup, and held two of the Eagles’ top scorers to a combined 16 points, which was less than half their season average.
Devon Cottrell led the rebounding effort, recording a double-double for a second straight game. He finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, and IUP scored 15 second-chance points.
“Teams that have quickness are going to beat us off the dribble,” Lombardi said, “so we have to beat them off the glass.”
Rebounding was crucial on a night when IUP’s offense was not sharp. The Hawks shot a season-low 40.7 percent from the field (22-for-54), including just 4 of 15 from 3-point range, and committed 15 turnovers. Clarion deployed a triangle-and-two defense against IUP’s leading scorers, Mathis Keita and Marcel Souberbielle, who finished with a combined 25 points after entering the game averaging 46.6.
“When you’re not sharp and not having your best night, that’s what’s there, the second shots,” Lombardi said. “We just played really hard. We outrebounded them by 20, and you can’t outrebound someone by 20 unless you scratch and claw to do that.
“I’d like to make more 3s and have fewer turnovers, but the 3 was what they were giving us, and they were paying more attention to Mathis and Marcel. We’ve got to get those other guys making those shots and make sure we don’t beat ourselves.”
Devante Chance, IUP’s junior point guard, provided the scoring punch, matching his career high with 18 points.
“I’m just trying to take shots when they’re open and be aggressive when it’s my time to and try to make plays,” Chance said.
Chance buried a 3-pointer off a pass from Jeremy Jeffers that started a 12-0 burst during the 15-2 run.
“Like Coach always tells us, basketball is a game of runs,” Chance said. “They had a run and cut it to five, and we just had to get ourselves together and get the momentum back and try to push the lead.”
Lombardi knows Keita and Souberbielle aren’t going to continue a torrid scoring pace of more than 20 points per game throughout a long season. The Hawks need third and fourth scorers to reach double figures, and he’d prefer it not be his point guard. He’d rather count on Jeffers, a Drake transfer, and Brandon Norfleet, a sophomore guard who transferred from Cheyney but is not eligible to play in the first seven games.
“Good teams have to win so many different ways,” Lombardi said. “We weren’t efficient on offense tonight, and credit Clarion because they played a triangle-and-two on Mathis and Marcel. We need to establish a third scorer. We don’t have an established third scorer right now. Devante can do that, but I’d prefer it be Jeremy or prefer it be Brandon when he gets back. But we need three scorers because teams can take two out of the game. Devante needs to pass and distribute a lot so I don’t want him to have to be the third scorer. Some nights he will be, but it’s good to have that third and fourth scorer.”
IUP held Clarion to 32.1 percent shooting (17-for-53), including 3-for-19 from 3-point range. Mike Kromka scored 16 points and was the only Clarion player to reach double figures.
“The guys understood the game plan and what they had to do,” Lombardi said. “Kromka is an all-league player, and they have some good young kids. They’ll be a lot better as the year goes on; they just need to get some experience.”
IUP is off until next weekend, when it plays host to Shaw (N.C.) on Saturday and Sciences of Philadelphia on Sunday in the IRMC Classic.