IUP BASKETBALL: Women clinch home playoff game in defeat
Just like last week, IUP played a strong first half against a quality opponent.
Unfortunately, also just like a week previous, the Crimson Hawks’ lead didn’t last, this time in a 69-63 loss to first-place Edinboro in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division women’s basketball game Saturday evening at the KCAC.
IUP held a 33-20 lead at halftime and led by as many as 16, but Edinboro came on in the second half, and Valerie Majewski’s 3-pointer with 59 seconds to play put the Fighting Scots ahead.
Seven days prior, the Hawks held a 13-point lead on Gannon, the No. 3 team in the nation, but sputtered to a 73-64 loss.
“You feel like you can do it,” IUP coach Tom McConnell said. “You know you can do it. You’ve seen it for 20, 30 minutes, and now we’ve got to be able to see it for 40. The players are frustrated. We’re frustrated with not being able to finish it out.”
IUP (16-9, 7-8 PSAC West), took the court knowing it had solidified fourth place in the division and a first-round home game in the conference tournament thanks to Pitt Johnstown’s 71-50 loss to Gannon on Saturday afternoon. The Hawks close the regular season at Slippery Rock on Wednesday.
Edinboro (20-5, 14-1), the No. 3 team in the latest NCAA Atlantic Region rankings, clinched first place in the division with the win.
“I’d rather lose to them now than in a week or two,” sophomore forward Zhan? Brooks said. “We take what we learned from this game, we get in the gym and get better. We work hard. The next time we see them, just pray for a better outcome.”
Much like after the Gannon loss, IUP’s frustration was mixed with optimism from the periods when the Hawks played well. The games showed glimmers of what IUP is capable of doing, but with the playoffs looming, the Hawks will have to take care of business soon.
“It definitely shows that we can play with anyone,” Brooks said. “We can beat anyone very well. We have the lead on teams, we just have to have that little edge at the end that pushes us over the top and finish it instead of letting them come in. Even though it’s disappointing that we lost, we know that we can play with anyone. We can win this game, very much so. It’s just that we have to buckle down and focus on us, make sure we keep playing our game.”
IUP held the Scots to 29.6 percent shooting (8 of 27) in the first half, but Edinboro shot 51.9 percent (14 of 27) in the second, while making 19 of 21 free throws. Edinboro made 21 of 23 foul shots overall.
“We just weren’t able to get the stops that we got in the first half,” McConnell said. “We played good basketball in the first half and really executed the game plan. … We just didn’t play with the same fervor, the same juice that we did in the first half. … Just too many drives to the basket where we didn’t get the stops, and that was the difference in the game.”
“We didn’t play well in the first half at all,” Edinboro coach Stan Swank said, “and that’s a tribute to them. They were playing great defense and doing some great things.
“We started doing some of the little things, coming up with some steals and then we had some scores in there. We got some baskets, and then our kids started getting to the basket and getting fouled.”
Lindsay Stamp led IUP with 13 points off the bench, playing in her third game since missing six with a right ankle injury. Brooks and Ashley Stoner scored 12, and Talen Watson had 11.
IUP shot 43.3 percent (13 of 30) in the first half, but 33.3 percent (10 of 30) in the second.
“Defensively, they really got out and guarded the 3-point line and took away our ability to get open shots,” McConnell said.
Edinboro had four scorers in double figures, led by Majewski with 18. Darche’ Jackson scored 17, Laurel Lindsay had 16 and Aignee’ Freeland added 15.
All 18 of Majewski’s points came in the second half. The junior transfer from Division I Buffalo nailed a 3 from the top of the key to put Edinboro up, 63-61, in the final minute. IUP couldn’t convert on offense and the Scots put the game away at the free throw line.
Majewski’s 3 gave Edinboro its first lead since 10-8.
“That 3 was huge,” Swank said. “You forget about her, and all of a sudden she burns you.”
IUP’s first-round playoff game will be next Saturday at the KCAC, against Clarion, Mercyhurst or Pitt Johnstown.
“Any time we can play here, that’s a good thing for us,” McConnell said. “We play in a very good conference top-to-bottom, so for us to lock up the 4-seed and home-court advantage, that’s a good thing.”
“That’s definitely good that we secured that spot,” Brooks said. “It would’ve been nice to win this game, too, to give us that little bit of edge, but knowing the work we’ve done so far has put us in a position to where we have a home-court game definitely makes us proud.”