After losing to division-leading Edinboro University on Wednesday, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team looked to halt a winless streak of five games Saturday night against Slippery Rock University.
Head coach Tom McConnell preached to his team to stay positive during the five-game slide, as the team came out of the gate flying, grabbing the momentum early from the Pride and going on to win the contest 66-50.
“It’s such a h i g h – c h a r a c ter group of young women,” McConnell said. “They have something to show for all the hard work and sacrifices they have made. They worked hard and played good basketball.
“I thought we were very competitive.”
IUP raced out to a 30-14 lead at the halfway point of the first half behind a 3-pointer barrage.
The Crimson Hawks used three’s from Leslie Stapleton (junior, biology/pre-med) and Marina Wareham (sophomore, nutrition) to maintain the stranglehold they had over Slippery Rock.
Stapleton scored a career-high 22 points and shot 57 percent in the first half. “It was all about my teammates finding me,” Stapleton said. “I attribute a lot of that to them.”
McConnell added that it was great to see Stapleton hit early shots. “When she can string a couple together, that makes us a better team,” McConnell said.
The Crimson Hawks’ chemistry showed in the first stanza. McConnell said it showed that the team enjoys playing together.
“They have a team-first mentality, and I think they are genuinely happy for each other’s success when somebody is doing well,” McConnell said. “There was good energy all the way around.”
IUP held the Pride to 20 percent shooting and limited Slippery Rock’s marquee players Jazmyne Frost and Aiden Geise to a combined 2-12 from the field.
One player who caused havoc for Frost in the paint was Melanie Todd (senior, sports administration), who was in the starting lineup.
McConnell called Todd an “integral part” of what the Crimson Hawks did.
“She brings energy, she brings rebounding, she brings good defense,” McConnell said. “She did not score a point tonight, but she made her presence known. I was glad to see it.”
The only Pride player who shot the basketball with efficiency was D’Asia Chambers, who finished 8-of-14 from the field for the Pride. Chambers missed a portion of the first half with a foot injury before returning to the court. She played a major role in the second half of the game.
IUP held a 38-17 advantage over Slippery Rock heading into the final stanza, but they saw that lead shrink as the minutes went by.
Chambers and Frost began heating up, and slowly, but surely, the Pride chipped away at what was a formidable lead for the Crimson Hawks. The Pride used Crimson Hawk turnovers and converted them into points.
Chambers’ jump shot with less than two minutes to go cut the deficit to 11.
IUP lost the battle for the boards 25-18 in the second half but made the defensive stops in order to preserve a victory.
“They made a nice run at us in the end,” McConnell said. “We wanted to hold them off better than we did, but we did a good job of taking care of the basketball and made free throws down the stretch.”
McConnell said that the little things such as smart shot selections and taking care of the basketball would play a big part in his team’s success.
“They started to press us and trap,” McConnell said. “I thought we reacted to it, kept the ball away from them and got the ball into our free-throw shooter’s hands.”
The Crimson Hawks will look to build on the victory over Slippery Rock when they travel east to take on the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown.