In front of fewer than 300 fans in early December, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team escaped from Seton Hill University with a narrow two-point victory that saw three Crimson Hawks score in double figures.
When the Griffins visit the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex for the first time as a member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, expect a larger crowd – University Square Rentals is hosting a whiteout – and some different names in the IUP scoring column.
Fans looking for IUP to continue the dominance it has shown over the last week should be wary of Seton Hill.
The team has averaged 86.5 points in wins over the University of Pittsburgh- Johnstown and Clarion.
The Griffins have been all over the place this season, with quality outings against Gannon University, IUP and Mercyhurst University, and they are looking to knock IUP off its perch, tied atop the PSAC West standings with Mercyhurst.
The 18-2 Crimson Hawks, who moved up two spots to No. 9 in the latest National Association of Basketball Coaches Top-25 Poll, have solidified their rotation that can extend to nine players, meaning players like Marcel Souberbielle (senior, communications media) and Mathis Keita (senior, communications media) are no longer asked to play big minutes every night.
Seton Hill will have to account for IUP’s addition of transfer combo-guard Brandon Norfleet (sophomore, undeclared).
Norfleet, the reigning PSAC East Freshman of the Year at Cheyney University, became eligible for the Crimson Hawks in January.
Since struggling to find consistency in his first games, Norfleet has broken out the last two contests, averaging 22.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4 assists in Crimson Hawk victories over Pitt-Johnstown and Clarion, en route to being named PSAC West Athlete of the Week.
While Norfleet has emerged as a possible third scoring option, much of the offense runs through leading scorers Souberbielle and Keita.
Both seniors are averaging 16.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game entering Saturday’s contest. Keita also adds 3.5 assists per game.
Devante Chance (junior, communications media) is tied for third in the PSAC with 4 assists per game from the point guard spot, as he has stepped into the starting lineup this season and has been a leader on and off the floor.
Jeremy Jeffers (junior, journalism) averages 8.2 points per game on a combination of scoring from inside and outside to stretch the floor for IUP.
Off the bench, Seton Hill will have to deal with the versatility of Devon Cottrell (sophomore, communications media) and Cornell Yarde (freshman, computer science).
The 6-foot-7 Cottrell averages 2.3 blocks per game playing just over 20 minutes per game, while Yarde has emerged as a steady scoring option off the bench.
On the defensive side of the ball, IUP has the nation’s second-ranked scoring defense, as the Crimson Hawks surrender just 58.9 points per game, a number that is also tops in the PSAC.
Teams looking to score against IUP will have to be creative on offense, as IUP’s stout defense is also the top team in the country in terms of field-goal percentage defense and second in the country in 3-point shooting percentage defense.
Seton Hill shot 40.7 from the field against IUP in their first meeting of the season but was just 4-21 from beyond the arc.
Some impact players for Seton Hill include Leonard Malachi and Kameron Taylor.
Malachi posts game averages of 17.8 points and 9.3 rebounds, while Taylor pitches in 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
A victory for IUP would mean a 9-2 record in the PSAC. However, a loss would make the upper echelon of the PSAC West even more crowded.
Going into Saturday, IUP and Mercyhurst both have 8-2 division records, while Gannon has an 8-3 record. Slippery Rock is 7-4 and in fourth, while Seton Hill is fifth with plenty of work to do to try to qualify for the PSAC playoffs.
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.