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Heading into winter break, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team had lost one game – to Seton Hill University.
While students were away from the campus, the team had games to play.
IUP returned to the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex in mid-December and captured two important victories against Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference opponents Millersville University and Shippensburg University. The Crimson Hawks dominated the Marauders and went on to win 70-50, and then rolled over Shippensburg 70-49 the following night.
From there, head coach Tom McConnell’s Crimson Hawks took to the road for three straight games against PSAC East opponents Kutztown University, Mansfield University and Lock Haven University.
IUP fed off of the efficient play of Leslie Stapleton (junior, biology pre-med), who came off the bench to score 21 points and lead the Crimson Hawks past Kutztown.
“She has been playing with a lot of confidence,” McConnell said. “She brings toughness to the team, and she practices very hard.”
The Golden Bears were unable to keep up with the proficient scoring of IUP.
In addition to Stapleton, four other Crimson Hawks contributed in double figures, including Zhane Brooks (sophomore, chemistry), who posted 10 points along with 10 rebounds.
The win against Kutztown was IUP’s third straight.
The team did not play again until Jan. 3, when they traveled east again to take on the Mansfield Mounties.
Leading the Crimson Hawks to the 78-63 victory over the Mounties was Lindsay Stamp (junior, criminal justice), who had 23 points in the contest.
The next night, IUP rolled to a 77-66 victory over Lock Haven and in the process picked up their fifth straight win.
The Crimson Hawks earned these wins without the services of guard Marita Mathe (junior, safety sciences), who went down with an injury prior to the road trip.
McConnell said there was a “readjustment period” without Mathe.
“It took us some time to figure things out rotationwise,” McConnell said. “Our team is not about just one player. We put the team first.”
IUP received contributions from their bench players like Talen Watson (senior, sports administration), who stepped into the starting role.
The Crimson Hawks returned home on Jan. 8 to face the Bloomsburg Huskies, the defending PSAC champions. IUP shot 32.8 percent against the Huskies and fell 74-62.
From there the struggles continued for IUP. The schedule makers were not kind to the Crimson Hawks as the team had to travel to Erie two times in one week.
IUP did not escape Erie with a victory.
The team dropped a contest to Mercyhurst University 73-64 in Mathe’s return to competition.
Mathe led IUP with 15 points, but that was not enough as IUP shot 29.6 percent in the second half and picked up the loss.
The next opponent was PSAC-power Gannon University – ranked second in the nation going into the match with IUP.
After a close first half, the Golden Knights, led by the formidable trio of Brittany Batts, Nettie Blake and Jen Papich, clamped down defensively and squashed any hopes of an IUP upset.
Gannon won the game 78-69.
After three straight defeats, McConnell said the team needed to get back to playing better defense.
IUP hoped to put an end to their losing streak Jan. 18 when rival California University of Pennsylvania came to town.
Locked in a close battle throughout the night, the first half saw Cal U use a 15-5 run along with several Crimson Hawk turnovers to put themselves on top at halftime 29-24. IUP came out strong in the second half, but the Vulcans finished off IUP in the latter stages of the half to win 69-63.
“They made more plays than we did,” McConnell said.
The big story out of the game was the injury Stamp suffered in the second half.
McConnell said a timetable for her return is on a “week-to-week” basis.