IUP BASKETBALL: Turnovers costly as women's season ends with loss
ERIE — A night earlier, the IUP women’s basketball team won its NCAA tournament opener despite 23 turnovers.
Less than 24 hours later, the Crimson Hawks couldn’t overcome their turnover woes.
IUP turned the ball over 26 times — the Crimson Hawks’ second-highest total of the season — and lost to Gannon, 64-46, in an Atlantic Region semifinal at the Hammermill Center in downtown Erie on Saturday night.
Gannon, the top seed in the region and the host school, will meet No. 7 seed California in Monday’s all-PSAC West regional championship with a berth to the Elite Eight on the line.
“I just really felt like throughout the evening, we were kind of back on our heels offensively,” IUP coach Jeff Dow said. “First of all, let’s give credit to Gannon. That certainly speaks to how well they defend. They’re a very physical team and they get up and pressure. And they do a good job of taking you out of your sets.
We just had a hard time getting into any kind of a flow offensively.”
IUP’s offensive output was the Crimson Hawks’ second-lowest scoring game of the season, and they mustered just 21 second-half points.
“I thought we came out of halftime strong, and certainly, that was a goal of ours,” Gannon coach Cleve Wright said. “I thought our kids played really well on the defensive end, played together as a team and really tried to take away what they wanted to do. I thought our defense was a big key to that second half.”
Gannon began the second half on a 7-0 run to establish a double-digit lead, 39-25, just 2:00 into the half, and the Golden Knights never allowed IUP to get closer than 12 the rest of the way.
And even when the Crimson Hawks managed to cut into Gannon’s lead and began building momentum, turnovers stunted IUP’s progress.
That was never more evident as it was with six minutes to play, when a costly turnover essentially sealed IUP’s fate.
After falling behind by 18 points, 52-34, with 8:48 to play, IUP managed to keep Gannon scoreless for nearly three minutes while slightly trimming its deficit to 52-39.
With possession and a chance to get closer than they had been all half, the Crimson Hawks turned the ball over at the 6:00 mark, as reigning PSAC West player of the year Jen Papich came up with a steal and converted it into a layup on the other end to restore a 15-point Gannon lead.
It proved to be the dagger for IUP.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Dow said. “Every now and again, we’d go on a little mini-run, but unfortunately, they answered with a mini-run of their own and just kept us at bay.”
“It might have been, but I think that overall, our defense in and of itself is really what gives teams a lot of trouble against us,” Papich said.
One night after dominating the inside game in a 72-59 win over Bloomsburg, IUP had trouble getting much going in the paint against the bigger Golden Knights. Combined with Gannon’s 27-7 edge in points off turnovers, it was too much of a climb for the Crimson Hawks to overcome.
“We always talk about, we want the ball to touch the paint, whether it’s drives, post-ups or what have you,” Dow said. “We didn’t really get that consistently. And some of those turnovers, unfortunately, resulted in easy points for Gannon.
“One of the categories we always look at is points off turnovers, and they won that particular category 27-7. (It’s) probably not a coincidence that the disparity was 20 points and we lost by 18. We didn’t generate enough easy points ourselves in terms of what we were doing defensively. And certainly, I’m not saying Gannon didn’t earn their points, but in a lot of respects I felt like we gave them some easy points.”
“They definitely pressure you a lot,” IUP sophomore guard Marita Mathe said. “That’s a reason why we couldn’t get into our sets. They were pressuring our first pass, so it was just really hard to set our offense up whenever they’re up in your faces like that. That’s one thing I felt like hurt us a little bit, is their pressure on the ball and on our first passes, our entry passes. That was a struggle for us to get our offense set up.”
IUP committed 14 first-half turnovers, but the Crimson Hawks felt good heading into the locker room trailing by seven, 32-25. IUP shot 34.6 percent in the first half (9-for-26) while Gannon was red-hot, going 13 of 24 (54.2 percent).
But Gannon had 14 turnovers to allow IUP to stay in the game.
“I was feeling pretty good only being down seven at the half,” Dow said, “because we all agreed as a team and a staff that we knew we could play much better. One of the things we emphasized was, ‘We’ve got to get off to a quick start.’ Unfortunately, that seven-point lead ballooned in a hurry, and now you’re just playing uphill.”
IUP senior Sarah Pastorek finished with team highs of 15 points and seven rebounds, and she ended her career by becoming the seventh player in school history to reach 1,300 career points.
Lindsay Stamp added 10 points for IUP, and Mathe finished with eight points and half of IUP’s four 3s.
Pastorek finished her shining career ranked in the top 10 in school history in a number of categories: points (1,311), rebounds (641), field goals made (483), free throws made (337) and attempted. And she finished her career averaging 13 points per game, becoming only the sixth player in program history to average at least 13 points over her career.
“I’m disappointed, but we played our hearts out,” Pastorek said. “Gannon is one heck of a team. You don’t see many of them around the country, and they’re nationally ranked for a reason. But our girls fought, they played their hearts out, and we played as a team. That’s what IUP is all about. We stick together no matter what. Overall, I’m really happy for the girls and really proud of them for how we’ve done this season.”
“Sarah’s loss is a tremendous loss in so many ways,” Dow said. “Everything that she’s represented and meant to IUP and IUP women’s basketball and how she’s carried herself on and off the floor. She goes down as one of the top 10 players in the history of the school, top 10 in points, top 10 in rebounding and despite of the fact that she missed a number of games over the course of her career, namely her freshman and senior years. But the cupboard is not bare by any means. We certainly feel good about our prospects for next year.”