Crimson Hawks begin basketball season in stride

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The Indiana University of Pennsylvania Crimson Hawks continue to chug along.

They are now 7-1 on the season and currently ranked fifth in the National Association of Basketball Coaches poll, the highest of any team in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, with East Stroudsburg sitting at 15.

These numbers are certainly impressive, but they pale in comparison to the way IUP has won.

Using a combination of different players at different times proves that this team is a versatile as ever.

“I think we have a collection of guys that have different talents,” head coach Joe Lombardi said. “It allows you to play in a variety of ways.”

IUP wrapped up a tournament at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex over the weekend in which they were tested against some good competition.

IUP suffered a 65-62 loss at the hands of Mercyhurst University on Thursday.

But the team is still riding a streak with seven wins in its first eight games of the year.

The Crimson Hawks outlasted Division II Player of the Year-caliber starter Garrett Kerr and the University of the Sciences on Saturday in what figures to be one of the most entertaining affairs of the young season.

“They [Sciences] came out and made some really good defensive plays,” Lombardi said. “It got them in some transition and easy buckets and really gave them confidence.”

Brandon Norfleet (junior, communications media) penetrated the lane and found an open Devon Cottrell (redshirt junior, communications media), who sank a floater with just around three seconds remaining to give the Crimson Hawks a 60-58 victory.

IUP trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half of the game, but still found a way to win with a combination of smothering full court defense and a bit of luck.

“We were fortunate to have enough time on the clock to fight back, and claw, and finish it out in the last 10 seconds,” Lombardi said.

The Crimson Hawks also battled the College of Saint Rose on Sunday and jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, cruising their way to a 66-47 victory.

Devante Chance (senior, communications media) had 13 points in the win for IUP.

And Brandon Norfleet just missed a double-double as he scored 11 points and added nine rebounds in a very efficient outing.

“Devante and I are on the same page about a lot of things,” Lombardi said. “He does as much coaching as I do.”

It is “on to the next one” for IUP, and the schedule gets tougher for the Crimson Hawks.

They will head north to face Adam Blazek and the Gannon Golden Knights on Saturday.

Gannon defeated IUP in both meetings last year, so the Crimson Hawks know they will need to prepare for what could be one of their toughest challenges to date.

Lombardi knows there will be many challenges that his team will face not only on Saturday, but all season long.

“One [challenge] for a winning program, and a program that has been ranked much of the past five years is that you have a target on your back,” Lombardi said.

“Teams are going to ‘rise up.’”