IUP turned a tied game into a blowout in the second half and improved to 5-0 by thumping last year’s NCAA Division II runner-up Dowling College, 66-52, in a non-conference women’s basketball game Tuesday in Oakdale, N.Y.
“This was a nice win on the road against a good basketball team, but I don’t want to get too high because this is not the same team that went to the national championship game last year,” first-year IUP coach Tom McConnell said of the Golden Lions, who saw their top three scorers from last year graduate in the spring.
“With that said, it’s still a good win. We were struggling in the first half in certain areas, but several players stepped up in the second half to carry us.”
Although the Crimson Hawks (5-0) scored the game’s first 14 points, they committed five turnovers in the ensuing four minutes and allowed the Lions (0-2) to mount a 13-2 run to trim their deficit to three points, 16-13.
IUP also struggled to stop dribble penetration in the first half, a shortcoming that led to a slew of costly personal fouls.
Guard Christine Verrelle made a pair of free throws with 36 seconds left in the first half to tie the game, 31-31.
IUP guard Talen Watson made a 3-point field goal 30 seconds later to give the Hawks a 34-31 lead.
But Kristina Surlan answered for the Lions on the following possession, racing over the midcourt line and draining a 3 as the first-half buzzer sounded to tie the game, 34-34.
Dowling took advantage of its many first-half trips to the line and buried 14 of 15 free throws. IUP, which nailed 13 of 26 shots from the field in the first half, committed 10 turnovers and made just 2 of 3 free throws.
“We committed way too many first-half turnovers, many of which were unforced,” McConnell said. “Plus they were very, very good at getting to the rim off the dribble, and we weren’t able to keep them out of the lane. They were able to either score or get fouled, and they made all but one of their first-half free throws.”
IUP mounted a 10-0 run to start the second half. Lindsay Stamp, who was limited to five first-half points, hit layups on back-to-back possessions and then swished a 3-pointer just 2:15 into the second half to give the Hawks a 41-34 lead.
Leslie Stapleton finished the run with a 3 to stretch IUP’s lead to 10 points, 44-34.
“Lindsay really set the tone for us in the second half,” McConnell said. “She made three buckets in a row, and I could see that look in her eye. She was like, ‘Let’s go. Let’s do this.’”
IUP maintained at least a six-point lead until Kamille Ejerta hit a layup with 7:18 left in the game to slice the Lions’ deficit to four points, 51-47.
Jillian Gilman then made a layup 2:18 later to cut IUP’s lead to three points, 55-52, with five minutes to play.
But the Hawks coolly responded to the pressure and went on an 11-0 burst to pull away. Stamp, the team’s leading scorer who collected five points during the spurt, finished with 20 points. The junior guard from Erie has scored 20 or more points in all five games this season.
“We did a much better job of containing them and not letting them get to the lane, and that was the biggest difference in the second half,” McConnell said.
IUP’s Ashley Stoner added eight points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Marion Center graduate Amy Fairman added 10 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals, Indiana graduate Marita Mathe chipped in eight points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals, and Watson had 10 points. Stapleton, who graduated high school alongside Mathe, tacked on seven points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal.
IUP shot 44,9 percent (22-for-49) from the field and held Dowling to 31.9 percent (15-for-467). The Hawks dominated the rebounding, 43-22.