IUP BASKETBALL: IUP 62, FAIRMONT STATE 46 -- Women pull away in second half
Akin to their first game under new head coach Tom McConnell, the IUP women’s basketball team looked like a different squad from half to half Saturday against Fairmont State.
But unlike the Crimson Hawks’ season-opening win six days earlier, one that saw them jump out to a 19-point halftime lead, IUP needed to make some significant halftime tweaks in order to pull away down the stretch.
The Hawks led by just two points at halftime but opened the second half on a 13-2 run and then handcuffed the Falcons en route to a 62-46 win in a non-conference women’s basketball game at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex on Saturday.
“Honestly, I think we played really, really hard in the first half, but nothing was falling,” said IUP guard Lindsay Stamp, who posted game highs in points (20) and steals (four). “Our layups were in and out and we had some opportunities for in-rhythm 3s, but we were just off in the first half.
“But we just stuck together, and in the second half, everything started to fall.”
The Hawks built a 5-0 lead early in the first half before allowing the Falcons to mount a 13-2 run and take a 13-7 lead with 7½ minutes left in the first half. IUP missed five 3-point field goals and committed four turnovers during Fairmont State’s bulkiest burst of the game, and West Virginia University transfer and point guard Makenzie White scored 10 points during that span.
A pair of layups from Stamp and a 3-pointer from point guard Marita Mathe helped IUP score seven unanswered points to take a 14-13 lead, and the Hawks never trailed again.
Forward Ashley Stoner drew a foul with 29 seconds left in the first half and nailed both free-throw attempts to give the Hawks an 18-14 lead.
Fairmont State guard Deidra Combs then hit a jumper just before the first-half buzzer sounded to trim IUP’s lead to two points, 18-16.
“We were standing and watching too much in the first half and that obviously made it more difficult to move the basketball,” McConnell said. “I’ve got to give Fairmont State credit for that. That’s a good team and they had a good game plan. They scouted well and knew our sets, but as the game wore on, we were able to get some of those open looks we weren’t able to get in the first half.”
Three key defensive plays, a steal each from Amy Fairman, Stamp and Mathe, sparked IUP’s 13-2 run early in the second half. Stoner paced the Hawks on the burst with four offensive rebounds and five points, including a three-point play that ended the spurt and put them ahead 31-18 just 3:30 into the second half.
“Our guards were really looking to pass the ball to us under the hoop,” said Stoner, who collected 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, including seven on the offensive glass. “We’re a really unselfish team and we like to spread the ball around a lot. I thought that was evident in our scoring and how the numbers evened out.”
The Falcons scored on three straight possessions, including a 3-pointer from forward Emily Lohr, to cut IUP’s lead to six points, 31-25, less than five minutes into the second half.
But Stamp swiftly answered and scored eight points in 2½ minutes to again give IUP a double-digit advantage. Stamp drained 3s on back-to-back possessions, the second of which pushed the Hawks’ lead to 39-27 with 13:04 left in the game.
“She rushed a couple shots and maybe settled on one or two in the first half,” McConnell said of Stamp, who scored 14 second-half points. “But in the second half, she started to really attack, and that helped her get in a rhythm shooting.
“She’s not only a great offensive player for us but I’m really proud of what she’s doing on the defensive end, as well.”
Guard Hallie Gunnoe made a layup with 10:49 left in the game to help the Falcons pull within eight points, 39-31.
Following Gunnoe’s bucket, however, the Hawks shifted gears and cranked up the defensive intensity to pull away for good.
IUP forced five turnovers in roughly the next six minutes of the game and went on a 10-4 run to nab a 51-35 lead with 5:04 to play.
Guard Leslie Stapleton then drilled a pair of free throws before scoring on a back-door pass from Mathe on the Hawks’ ensuing possession to stretch their lead to 55-35 with 4:01 to play.
Stapleton and Mathe struggled shooting the ball, with Mathe going 3-for-11 and Stapleton finishing 3-for-9.
The Hawks limited White, who led all scorers in the first half with 11 points, to just two second-half points.
“Looking at the box score, I think six of our eight players struggled tonight,” Fairmont State coach Steve McDonald said. “I think they were gapping Makenzie a lot more in the second half and I don’t think she did a real good job distributing the ball once the other team got in the gaps.”
Mathe, an Indiana graduate, finished with eight points, six rebounds and four assists, and Fairman, a Marion Center native, added nine points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Stapleton, who graduated alongside Mathe at Indiana, had eight points and three rebounds.