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The Indiana University of Pennsylvania clinched a top-four seed in the upcoming conference tournament with its 78-65 victory Saturday over visiting Edinboro University on Senior Night.
IUP, now 22-3 overall and 12-3 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, receives a first-round bye in the PSAC tournament, which opens March 1 and will host a quarterfinal matchup March 4.
On Saturday, though, the Crimson Hawks rode the play of their three seniors to deny a Fighting Scot team that was hungry for a signature win.
“This was their big Super Bowl,” head coach Joe Lombardi said. “They’re done Wednesday. They wanted something to remember the season by.”
Marcel Souberbielle (senior, communications), the only four-year senior among the trio, set a career-high with 27 points and added six rebounds and four steals. His efforts led to him being named PSAC Player of the Week.
“[The season’s] not over, but it’s going to be over soon,” said Souberbielle, who is now 20th on the IUP all-time scoring list with 1,107 points. “Like Coach says, only so many marbles are left, so it makes me think back through my career and all the good moments I had.
“[I’m] hoping to make some other good moments to remember when I leave.”
The first half was a back-and-forth effort, with IUP’s biggest lead being just five points, leading to a 37-all halftime score. Though the Crimson Hawks were able to limit the effectiveness of Edinboro’s talented center Bryan Theriot to the tune of just five first-half points, Lombardi was not pleased with his team’s effort, especially in the rebounding department.
“Coach came at us and told us we need to pick up our intensity on the defensive end, or we’re not going to win the game,” said Devante Chance (junior, communications media), who scored 10 points and had eight assists.
The Crimson Hawks were out-rebounded 16 to eight in the first half.
“The second half was a case of feeling threatened and being 100 percent committed to the defensive end, where the first half was wanting to play defense but not being 100 percent committed to it,” Lombardi said.
Whatever the message, it sunk in for the Crimson Hawks.
Xavier Churnac’s 3-pointer gave Edinboro a 41-37 lead before a deciding stretch by the trio of seniors gave IUP the momentum it needed to pull away for victory.
Souberbielle and Jesse Bosnik (graduate, business administration) started off the run by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to give IUP a 49-45 lead.
Bosnik then stole the ball on the sideline and passed ahead to Mathis Keita (senior, communications media) whose dunk, which accounted for half of his points on the night along with eight assists, gave IUP a six-point lead.
“In my opinion, I thought it was a pretty big stretch,” Bosnik said. “The tip-out, the three, the steal and the dunk. We got some momentum there.
“Those are the types of things I need to do to help us win. That’s what I control, so that’s what I try to do. It was a fun stretch there.”
The Fighting Scots tried to make it a game but could get no closer than eight points down the stretch as IUP held on for the victory.
Also scoring in double figures for IUP were Jeremy Jeffers (junior, journalism), Devon Cottrell (sophomore, communications media) and Brandon Norfleet (sophomore, undeclared).
Henri Wade-Chatman put in 22 points for Edinboro, who got just eight from Theriot, who was hounded by the IUP defense all night.
“I thought [the defense on Theriot] was terrific tonight,” Lombardi said. “This is the second time in a row we’ve limited him to under 10 points. I give a lot of credit to Jeremy and Devon for that.”
The Crimson Hawks head to Slippery Rock University to wrap up the regular season Wednesday. IUP beat the Rock 66-64 Saturday, Jan. 25, but dropped last season’s game in Slippery Rock.
“That’s a nice opportunity, and I’m glad we’re playing them there,” said Lombardi, who is expecting the usual large crowd when IUP comes to town. “We get a chance to take on a challenge.”
Slippery Rock is fourth in the PSAC West Division.
“I’m personally looking forward to it,” Bosnik said. “There’s nothing like a little hostile environment to get you ready to compete.”