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They say revenge is a dish best served cold.
If that’s the case, then Indiana University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball is a group of gourmet chefs after they started off an important week with a chilly 85-47 drubbing of California University of Pennsylvania.
IUP, ranked No. 7 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Top 25 Poll, was not only dominant in their rematch with the Vulcans, who handed the Crimson Hawks their only home defeat this season Jan. 18, but seem to be coming together as a team in the most pivotal of times with the most important games forthcoming.
“These guys have been really mature the last couple weeks,” head coach Joe Lombardi said to WQMU92.5 FM after the game. “I had faith they could evolve into this type of team. I didn’t necessarily see it back in January.
“We [have] put together a streak of performances now where we’re playing what I feel is IUP basketball.”
The Crimson Hawks shot a blistering 61.5 percent from the floor, while IUP’s defense limited Cal U to just 25.5 percent.
Since defeating Slippery Rock 66-64 on Jan. 25, IUP has disposed of its opponents in a dominating fashion.
In the three games preceding Wednesday night’s rout, the Crimson Hawks have raced out to 31-, 26- and 33-point leads in wins against University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Clarion University and Seton Hill University, respectively. Against California, in a game that some IUP players were fashioning on Twitter as the start of “revenge week,” IUP played total team basketball while running out to a 42-point second-half lead.
Part of the reason for the 38-point victory was IUP’s ability to control the glass: The Crimson Hawks held a 44-21 advantage in rebounds, including a 35-14 difference in defensive boards.
“Last time, we got beat on rebounding [against Cal U],” Lombardi said. “At the end of the day, when a team out-rebounds you, they probably put forth a better effort than you, and Cal did that the first game.
“I thought our guys responded to the challenge and put together a great effort tonight.”
The Crimson Hawks put all five starters in double figures, while nine players found the scoring column.
Jeremy Jeffers (junior, journalism) played arguably his best game in a Crimson Hawk uniform, scoring a team-high 16 points. Point guard Devante Chance (junior, communications media) turned in another solid performance, finishing with 12 points, nine assists and five rebounds, while Mathis Keita (senior, communications media) played his typical all-around game, finishing with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Marcel Souberbielle (senior, communications media) and Brandon Norfleet (sophomore, undeclared) finished with 10 and 14 points, respectively, while Devon Cottrell (sophomore, communications media) had nine points and added another four blocks to his stats.
IUP was able to get out to a 42-22 halftime and cruised from there.
“I think they seemed a little discouraged when they came out in the second half and couldn’t put a dent in [the lead],” Lombardi said.
Jeffers and Norfleet each scored eight points in the second half to pace IUP and put to rest any glimmer of a possible comeback by California.
“We’re not this much better than them,” Lombardi said. “Games just kind of get away from teams sometimes.”
With the win, IUP moves to 20-2 overall and 10-2 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West division and sets up a date with visiting Gannon University Saturday at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex. Gannon, at 9-3 in the division, will move atop the division if it can knock off the Crimson Hawks, who control their fate in the PSAC playoffs with four games remaining.
Tipoff at the KCAC is set for 7:30 p.m.