For drivers, green means go.
For a trio of IUP Crimson Hawks, it means shoot.
IUP’s Courtney Alexander scored 16 points on the strength of 4-for-7 3-point shooting, Justina Mascaro scored a team-high 17 points, and Natalie Myers finished with 13 to lead the Hawks to a 62-48 victory at Gannon on Saturday. Gannon was trying to join IUP in first place in the PSAC West, but the Hawks broke open a close game in the second half behind Alexander, who drilled three of her 3s in the second 20 minutes, and won their 12th straight game.
“She has a lot of confidence, and her and Natalie and Justina, that green light is very bright for them,” IUP coach Tom McConnell said. “We want them shooting it. They don’t have to be wide open to shoot it. Those three work so hard on their game so as soon as they get it, we want them looking and knocking that thing down. All three are playing with a lot of confidence.”
Alexander, a 5-foot-10 redshirt junior guard who played scholastically at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Pittsburgh, has been on a hot streak after starting the season in a slump. She is 22-for-45 from 3-point range in the past seven games after going just 7-for-26 in the first seven.
She is known for the quick release on her shot.
“In high school my teammates were always like, ‘Your release is so quick.’ I have no idea where it came from. It’s something I adapted over time because I was slower in high school, but over the past two years I’ve worked on my shot a lot so I guess that’s where it comes from.”
Alexander emerged last year late in the season during IUP’s run to the PSAC championship and Elite Eight. She hoped to break into the starting lineup this season, but Mascaro, a transfer from Division I Delaware, grabbed the spot. Mascaro, a 5-11 junior guard, is averaging a team-high 15.3 points per game.
“This year I didn’t start, which is fine for me because I like coming off the bench and being a contributor,” she said, “and sometimes I think it’s whoever ends the game, that’s what really matters. Right now I feel like I’m going on a really good run … and it’s been really cool.”
Alexander raised her scoring average to 7.4 points per game. She is shooting 40.8 percent (29-for-71) from 3-point range.
Myers, meanwhile, launched only one 3-point attempt Saturday night and made it. She leads NCAA Division II in 3-point percentage at .528 (38-for-72). She is 15-for-28 in the past six games. She is averaging 13.2 points, second on the team.
Gannon took away Myers’ 3-point attempts but couldn’t stop the Hawks. Alexander stepped in and gave IUP a lift, hitting two 3-pointers in the third quarter and one more in the fourth during a 13-0 run that gave IUP control of the game. She even scored on a pull-up jumper after faking a shot, dribbling around a defender and hitting for 2.
“I heard their bench talking: ‘It’s a shooter. It’s a shooter,’” Alexander said. “They were running at me so I thought I can’t shoot this so I better get the pull-up jumper out.”
Defensively, IUP held Gannon to 24 points in each half.
“Defense was the difference in the game,” Alexander said, “because good defense always translates to good offense.”
Gannon had won six straight under coach Cleve Wright, who returned to the Golden Knights for a second stint as head coach. He coached there for 11 seasons (2002-13) and compiled a 233-100 record and won two NCAA regional titles.
“We know they’re a really good team, a strong program, a great place to play, they’re playing well, a well-coached team so we feel great about it,” McConnell said. “I’m really proud of the effort the team made. I thought we had a great first quarter and I like the way we came out of the gate. And then they made some plays in the second quarter, and it was a one-point game and anybody’s game. We were able to regroup at halftime and challenged the team and they responded. All the credit goes to those ladies. They showed great toughness, character and unselfishness.”
IUP plays at Edinboro on Wednesday. The Fighting Scots are 7-6 with three straight wins, including a 73-72 victory over California on Saturday.
“I think the team is starting to get the mentality of it doesn’t matter where, when, home, away, it’s the next game on the schedule and let’s take it one at a time,” McConnell said. “We know it’s another good team.”