IUP cruises to 23-point playoff blowout win over Pitt-Johnstown

Melanie Todd (senior, sport administration) looks for an open lane to the bucket during IUP's PSAC playoff game against Pitt-Johnstown. (Sean Yoder/ The Penn)

The saying goes, “It’s hard to beat a team three in a row, let alone three times in a season,” yet the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Crimson Hawks women’s basketball team made it look easy Saturday at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.

In the first round of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference playoffs Saturday, IUP dispatched the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Mountain Cats 79-56, giving the Crimson Hawks their third win of the season over UPJ, including two at home.

Lindsay Stamp (junior, criminal justice) earned a double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds), and three other Crimson Hawks scored in double figures as the team advanced in the PSAC postseason tournament.

The win should act as a confidence booster for the Hawks, who will now travel to Edinboro University to take on the tournament’s No. 1 seed, the Fighting Scots.

Going into the tournament there were questions as to whether the team could play a full 40 minutes.

The Crimson Hawks have had trouble putting together 40 minute games. That tendency cost them wins against Edinboro and Gannon University earlier in the season.

The 79-56 victory against the Mountain Cats Saturday seemed to alleviate the worries.

Junior forward Ashley Stoner (junior, English) said the team learned to put two halves together.

“At this time of the season, you just have to lay it all out there,” Stoner said. “We finally learned how to put two halves together. We came out strong; we extended our lead, and that’s going to help us in the future.”

Stamp said the team had to pick up a big win.

“We know coming in we had to get a really good win in order to carry our momentum into Edinboro,” Stamp said.

IUP came out on fire to start the game going on a 12-2 run before the first media timeout.

UPJ worked its way back into the contest after IUP went cold from the field, and Crimson Hawk head coach Tom McConnell settled his players down.

“This is the way a playoff game should be,” McConnell told his players. “This is the way it’s going to be. We are going to have to battle every possession.”

The Mountain Cats went on a 21-7 run over an eight-minute span and tied the game at 23. IUP closed the first half with an 8-0 run of their own. The team held the opposition to nine of 26 shooting as well as 22 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Moreover, the Crimson Hawks established their inside presence early.

For McConnell those two factors were keys to their victory.

“If you are going to have any success against UPJ, you have to guard the 3-point line,” McConnell said. “They are really good and dangerous from behind the three. Not one player had more than one three, so that is a good thing.

“We tried to establish an inside presence. We went to Ashley Stoner early and often.”

IUP dominated the Mountain Cats throughout the second half. The team scored seven of the first nine points to start.

The Crimson Hawks built a 12-point lead before UPJ cut the lead to 11. However, that was the closest UPJ got in the second half.

UPJ’s deficit grew to as much as 30 points and at one point, the Crimson Hawks were shooting the ball at 80 percent from the field.

All 14 IUP players saw time on the court, and the team closed out the contest with a 13-1 run, which gave them a 23-point lead.

IUP limited UPJ’s sharpshooter Kayla DeCriscio to five points and paint-presence Jasmine Harper to two points. In addition, the Crimson Hawks pulled down 50 boards and earned 22 assists in the game.

Stoner earned 15 points, as did Leslie Stapleton (junior, biology/pre-med). Amy Fairman (junior, business management) put up 10 points and five assists.

The team, McConnell said, battled not just against UPJ but all season.

“We’ve battled through a lot of things,” McConnell said. “We lost Marita, we lost Lindsay for six games, Ashley went out with a concussion, Leslie had a broken nose, and I could go down the line. Hopefully, we are healthy, we’re in a good place and mindset and we can go out and get one.”

Next in line for IUP are the Fighting Scots, a team that has earned two victories over IUP in the regular season. IUP lost 66-59 the last time they traveled to Edinboro, Jan. 22.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday in Edinboro.