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NCAA BASKETBALL: MERCYHURST 73, IUP 64 -- Crimson Hawks women drop second straight game

by TONY COCCAGNA on January 12, 2014 1:38 AM

ERIE — Suddenly, the IUP Crimson Hawks look lost.

Their defense is nowhere to be found.

Their rebounding has deserted them.

IUP lost a second straight game, falling at Mercyhurst, 73-64, in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division women’s basketball game Saturday afternoon. The Crimson Hawks lost to a Mercyhurst program they had beaten 12 straight times, and they fell to 11-3 overall and 2-2 in the PSAC West.

Coming off a 74-62 loss to Bloomsburg, IUP allowed more than 70 points for a second straight game after yielding that many only once previously this season. The Hawks also were outrebounded for a second straight game in a dominating 42-26 effort by Mercyhurst (4-10, 2-2).

“Two things,” first-year IUP coach Tom McConnell said. “One was rebounding. They hurt us on the glass. We gave them too many second-shot opportunities, and we dug ourselves too big a hole. We gave up 46 first-half points, and we can’t do that — that’s not us. We’ve got to do a better job guarding. Those two things tie together — rebounding and being able to get stops and coming out of the gate ready to get stops.”

Mercyhurst tore through IUP’s defense in the first half, shooting 56.7 percent (17-for-30) from the field and scoring 46 points — a total the Lakers had barely surpassed in three full games this season. The Lakers took a 16-point lead late in the first half and held a nine-point margin, 46-37, at halftime.

“It was a perfect storm,” McConnell said. “They shot the ball very well and played very well, and we were a step behind everything in the first 20 minutes.”

The storm let up a little in the second half, but it was still more than IUP could weather. The Hawks pulled within three points at 53-50 in the first seven minutes of the second half, but Mercyhurst mounted an 11-4 run for a 10-point lead, and IUP never threatened again.

“I told them I know who we are and know who we can be. I’ve seen it,” McConnell said. “We just need to refocus and get back to playing at that level. We’ve got to stop dribble penetration and eliminate second shots. If we do that, we’ll get better.”

Mercyhurst beat IUP with a rotation that consists of one senior, two sophomores and five freshmen. Adrienne Kloecker, a sophomore guard, scored a game-high 23 points, and senior forward Alayna White posted her sixth double-double of the season with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Alex Artise, a freshman guard, grabbed 10 rebounds.

“We keep talking about the day it’s going to happen because we’re so young, so young, so young,” Mercyhurst coach Deanna Richard said. “They came with a different focus, and you could see that in their eyes. They wore their hearts on their sleeves. And our beginning-of-the-game speech was, ‘They’re people just like we are.’ We need to do that because we’re so young, and we matured a little bit today.”

IUP mounted comebacks on its previous three trips to Mercyhurst to pull out wins. That wasn’t in the cards Saturday, although that fear crept into the Lakers when IUP closed the first half with a 3-point field goal and opened the second half with a 13-6 burst that made the score 53-50.

“Absolutely,” Richard said. “My fear was — and it happened — six minutes into the second half we shoot ourselves in the foot. But we turned it around a little bit quicker than we have been. Today we held strong.”

IUP’s Marita Mathe, playing for the first time after sitting out seven games with a foot injury, scored a team-high 15 points off the bench. Ashley Stoner scored 13, and Amy Fairman, who suffered a back injury and sat out the second half of the Bloomsburg loss, came off the bench and scored 12 points.

Lindsay Stamp, who entered the game as the PSAC’s leading scorer at 21.4 points per game, ran into early foul trouble and scored only nine points and played only 21 minutes. Stamp, a junior and native of Erie, transferred to IUP after her freshman season at Mercyhurst.

“Never in my career here had we beaten IUP,” Mercyhurst’s seventh-year coach said. “We’ve been close a lot of times. The majority of it today was that we just scouted, and for whatever reason, our focus didn’t change. We stuck to the game plan and earned it.”

IUP plays at Gannon on Wednesday. The Knights are 16-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country.

“Right now our focus is on us and coming back Monday and getting better and keep growing,” McConnell said. “We need to control things we can control now, and that’s defense and rebounding.”

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January 12, 2014 1:34 AM
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