In front of a raucous crowd at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team hosted the third-best team in the country and lost, 73-64.
Perennial Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference power Gannon University traveled from Erie to take on the Crimson Hawks, who were returning to the friendly confines of the KCAC after a loss at California, Pa.
Also returning to the court of the KCAC was the Crimson Hawks’ leading scorer, Lindsay Stamp (junior, criminal justice), who returned after nursing a foot injury back to health.
The Crimson Hawks found themselves in a three-point hole early in the first half before Stamp entered the game. From then on, Stamp ignited a spark in the Crimson Hawks.
The Erie native went four of five from the field, was perfect from beyond the arc during a four-minute span, and helped the Crimson Hawks gain a nine-point lead over the Golden Knights.
Stamp added another 3-point shot minutes later and gave the Crimson Hawks their largest advantage of the contest at 34-21.
“It felt good to be back; I’ve been rehabbing a lot,” Stamp said. “I’m glad to be back playing.”
Throughout the first half, IUP shot the triple with efficiency and finished the first half shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc.
“I think that is one of the strengths of our basketball team because we have some good perimeter shooter,” head coach Tom McConnell said. “We want to play to the strengths of the team. We have four or five people that can really shoot the basketball.”
Gannon responded with a 12-2 run of their own, cut the deficit, and both teams went into the locker rooms with IUP holding a 38-33 lead.
It was an efficient shooting night for both the Crimson Hawks and the Golden Knights. IUP ended the half shooting the basketball at 50 percent, while Gannon was slightly better at 52 percent for the half.
In the second half, however, IUP maintained cold shooting and poor shot selection.
Leslie Stapleton (junior, biology/pre-med) and Ashley Stoner (junior, English) each converted early layups to answer Gannon’s start to the second half.
The Golden Knight received production from Brittany Batts, Nettie Blake and Jen Papich, but they also used their bench to put up points.
Morgan Neighbors, a sophomore guard, made crucial threes, and Amanda Berchtold played as a defensive specialist as the game progressed.
McConnell said Gannon’s front line of Batts, Blake and Papich is formidable.
“That’s a good front line, very skilled and versatile,” McConnell said. “They can hurt you inside and outside.”
Golden Knights guard Mollie Sebald converted a triple to cut the IUP lead to one point and then hit another three to put Gannon on top 55-53 with 9:34 remaining in the last half.
The Golden Knights maintained the advantage and held off a Crimson Hawk shooting barrage, which saw IUP come up empty on the majority of their attempts.
With a four-point deficit, Stoner fouled out of the game with less than three minutes to play.
Gannon converted free throws to secure the team’s 23rd victory and a first-round bye in the PSAC tournament.
IUP lost their second straight game and fell into a tie for fourth place in the PSAC West Division with University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
Talen Watson (senior, sports administration), who scored 10 points and added five assists said the team played Gannon well, but just couldn’t get it done in the end.
“All we can do is grow from here,” Watson said. “There were a couple things down the stretch that we did not execute and hopefully we can fix those things.”