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Hopes for another deep playoff run for the Indiana University of Pennsylvania ended abruptly at the hands of the Mercyhurst University Lakers, 67-56, Tuesday at a half-empty Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.
IUP, the defending PSAC tournament champion and winners in three of the last four years, allowed Mercyhurst to put up second-half shooting numbers of 55.6 percent on 3-pointers and 91.7 percent on free throws. IUP was just six of 22 from the field, including missing all six 3-point attempts in the second half.
“We didn’t play well enough to deserve to win,” head coach Joe Lombardi said. “They were more efficient than us and more productive than us on the offensive end.”
The Crimson Hawks held a lead for the entire first half and went up by as many as 11 when Mathis Keita (senior, communications media) tipped in a shot to give IUP a 29-18 lead. Over the next six minutes, Mercyhurst went on a 13-3 run to cut the Crimson Hawks’ lead to just 32-31 going into halftime.
It took nearly five minutes into the second half for Mercyhurst to gain its first lead of the night. Callon Dailey and Greg Williams made jumpers to put the Lakers up 47-42; however, IUP could not capitalize on a defensive effort that held Mercyhurst scoreless for over seven minutes, in what would become a turning point in the game. During that stretch, the Crimson Hawks went two of seven from the free-throw line and could get no closer than 47-46.
More importantly, with 11:05 to go in the game, Marcel Souberbielle (senior, communications media) injured his groin and had to leave the game.
“He’s had a groin problem all year long,” Lombardi said. “He’s been our one guy who makes threes.”
Souberbielle, visibly disappointed during his postgame interview, tried to check back in to the game, but had to come right back out after just a minute of play. Souberbielle and Keita each scored a game-high 15 points.
“It’s really disappointing,” Souberbielle said. “I would never want to leave my team like that in a situation like this. I’m really upset. I felt it in the beginning of the second half. It’s pretty bad now.
“Hopefully, I’ll be alright for the NCAA tournament.”
IUP tried to get back into the game but got no closer than when Keita scored on a layup with 59 seconds left. Mercyhurst made all eight free-throw attempts in the last minute and punctuated the victory with two late dunks.
Jean Onana was one of three Laker players in double figures, as he finished with 16 points and five rebounds. Mercyhurst, who went 11 players deep, got 37 bench points, compared to just two for IUP.
“Even though you can’t write the script, coming home losing in the playoffs is a shocking feeling,” Devante Chance (junior, communications media) said.
Chance scored 10 points and had four steals, but his two assists were evidence of Mercyhurst’s matchup zone that limited driving lanes to the basket.
“We got discouraged tonight,” Lombardi said. “We couldn’t make free throws. We couldn’t make open jump shots.
“They were making bank threes from the top of the key that were heavily contested, and we were missing open ones.”
Mercyhurst advances to play East Stroudsburg University in Friday’s PSAC semifinals. East Stroudsburg, as the top seed in the East division, will host the semifinal and final games.
For IUP, the team will have to play the waiting game to find out where their next game is, if there is a next game. The Crimson Hawks entered the game ranked third in the Atlantic Region, with the top-eight teams advancing to the NCAA tournament.