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In an important game with playoff implications attached, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team was able to get back to their winning ways with a 74-64 victory over Mercyhurst University Wednesday.
IUP, which entered the day third in the first Atlantic Region rankings and 12th in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Top-25 Poll, was able to make pivotal shots late in the game and shot 92.6 percent from the free throw line, including a 19 for 20 effort in the second half.
“As a coach, these are types of wins we really cherish because you have to work every second,” head coach Joe Lombardi said. “Guys have to dig down and find something more than they think they have.
“This time of year, I’d rather win a tight game and a hard-fought game than win by 30.”
One of those players who dug deep was point guard Devante Chance (junior, communications media).
Chance tied a career-high with 18 points, dished out three assists and was 11 of 12 from the free throw line, all while playing all 40 minutes.
“If I’m not tired, I’m not going to take myself out of the game,” Chance said. “Playing 40 [minutes], I’m getting used to it. I’ve been doing it a lot through the season.”
Chance has played the entire game on five occasions this season and has played 35 minutes or more nine other times this season.
“His heart is as big as the [Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex],” Lombardi said of Chance. “He plays through fatigue, and he’s a security blanket for me. Even when he’s not playing well offensively, I know he’s bringing toughness and competitiveness.”
IUP and Mercyhurst traded baskets in the first half, with Chance scoring the game’s first points almost two minutes into action.
After the Crimson Hawks were able to alter a Lakers shot, Chance passed ahead to a wide-open Jeremy Jeffers (junior, journalism), who brought the KCAC crowd to its feet with a two-handed dunk, giving IUP a 28-23 lead and forcing Mercyhurst to burn a timeout.
Shots by Callon Dailey, Jonathon Ouegnin and Anthony Lytle sparked Mercyhurst to take a one-point lead, which it would take into halftime with the score 31-30.
The second half was the same close affair, though the Crimson Hawks held a lead for the final 15:51.
Mercyhurst battled back to cut the IUP lead to two with just over five minutes remaining, but Marcel Souberbielle’s (senior, communications media) 3-pointer put the Crimson Hawks back up by multiple possessions. Souberbielle, who scored 12 points on three 3-pointers and a 3-of-4 effort from the free throw line, played just 11 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.
Brandon Norfleet (sophomore, undecided) scored a game-high 18 points, while Mathis Keita (senior, communications media) continued to contribute when having an off-night shooting.
Keita was just three of 10 from the field, but was a perfect seven of seven from the free throw line to finish with 13 points and five assists.
With the victory, IUP moves to 21-3 overall.