Looking for a response and a playoff berth, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball hosted the underperforming Mercyhurst Lakers Wednesday night.
In a reversal of Saturday’s loss to the Gannon Golden Knights, the reeling Crimson Hawks snapped it’s two-game winless streak by dominating the Lakers, 83-63. The win moved the Crimson Hawks’ Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference record to 7-7 and sent them to the postseason.
From the opening tip, it was clear for head coach Tom McConnell’s Crimson Hawks that the game was theirs.
IUP started the game going on a 12-0 opening run, which included back-to-back opening three’s from Leslie Stapleton (junior, biology/pre-med).
“We wanted to come out strong,” McConnell said. “Leslie got us started with those three’s, and I thought our girls were really hooked up tonight.”
Amy Fairman (junior, business management) added a jumper and two free throws to the run as well. It turned out to be an efficient night of basketball from the Marion Center High School graduate, who credited her teammates for her success in the game.
“I have a good team to back me up,” Fairman said. “I help them out; they help me out. That’s why we play so well together.”
The Lakers tried to cut down the IUP lead with small runs in the first half, but the Crimson Hawks smothered the Mercyhurst offensive attack. They forced the Lakers to beat them with shots from beyond the arc as well.
IUP held Mercyhurst to 33 percent shooting from the field and 27 percent from 3-point territory.
“We were concerned with their 3-point shooting, especially with Kloecker; she’s an excellent shooter,” McConnell said. “I thought our team did a good job playing team defense and limiting her touches.”
The Crimson Hawks were on fire from the field, making 15 of 26 (57 percent) of their shots and were 50 percent from beyond the arc in the first half. Stapleton converted three baskets for three and was the second-leading scorer at the half. Fairman finished the half as the leading scorer for the Crimson Hawks with 12 points.
IUP went into halftime with a 46-24 lead over the Lakers.
In the second half, Mercyhurst’s fortunes did not turn around. IUP maintained their offensive and defensive pressure throughout the second stanza. At the first media timeout, the Crimson Hawks built their lead to 55-28.
When Mercyhurst was making a run and enabling a full-court press defense, IUP stuck to their guns defensively and offensively.
“That’s a key when you play them because they’ve got some people that can score the basketball,” McConnell said. “This past weekend they held Edinboro to a three-point game, so they are very capable.”
Mercyhurst never got within striking distance, and IUP ran out the clock to pick up the victory.
The win increased the Crimson Hawks’ all-time series lead over the Lakers to 17-4 and brought the season series to 1-1.
Lindsay Stamp (junior, criminology) turned in a 16-point effort to complement her 18-point performance and led all her teammates against Mercyhurst.
The Crimson Hawks will face Edinboro University Saturday at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.