The IUP men’s basketball team earned its 17th straight victory Saturday when it knocked off California University of Pennsylvania in a close contest.
The Hawks were able to secure the win by a score of 77-72, adding to their win streak and wrapping up the regular season with an overall record of 26-2 and 21-1 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).
Sophomore phenom Jacobo Diaz (economics) was back in the spotlight in this one, knocking down 8 of 14 from the field and totaling 21 points with eight boards.
IUP, who had already secured the No.1 seed in the PSAC West division of the bracket, continued to ramp up the intensity, letting key pieces stay fresh.
Diaz led the team in minutes played with 36, while the rest of the starters continued to log similar minutes, as well.
Anthony Glover (junior, marketing) was also a part of the scoring attack for the Crimson Hawks with 13 points, four assists and eight rebounds of his own.
Dante Lombardi (sophomore, business) had one of his most well-rounded games of the season with 11 points, eight assists and managed to get to the foul line a team-high eight times.
Blake Danielak (redshirt junior, finance and legal studies) also contributed 12 points off the bench.
Once again, the Crimson Hawks were able to win with the do-it-by-committee approach, with four players in double figures and solid minutes and production from the starters and bench.
The consistency of the Crimson Hawks’ balanced attack has not gone unnoticed by head coach Joe Lombardi.
“I think one of our strengths is how we can win in different ways,” Lombardi said.
Knocking off Cal was a nice win for the Crimson Hawks.
Despite being the hotter team, it was key for the team to win a close game with the playoffs looming.
“I was pleased with how we played. I thought Cal played good basketball for the past month,” Lombardi said.
The team will now prepare for its first matchup of the PSAC playoffs when they square off with the winner of Mercyhurst University and Slippery Rock University.
IUP will also have home-court advantage for the entirety of the PSAC playoffs since they have clinched the No. 1 seed in the PSAC West, and it is also the West’s turn to host the PSAC Championship should the Crimson Hawks get there.
With the team continuing to ride high on its 17-game win streak, fans can’t help but feel confident in the team to make a deep playoff run.
The 17-game streak is the longest streak of the Joe Lombardi era, something he is proud of.
“I think that in its own right is an accomplishment,” Lombardi said.
Moving forward, the Crimson Hawks will be tasked with facing either Mercyhurst or Slippery Rock in their secound-round matchup. IUP defeated Meryhurst by 11 points in both victories over the Lakers this season.The Crimson Hawks also defeated Slippery Rock in blowout fashion in their two matchups this season.
The team will look to make it 18 straight when it hosts its first playoff game at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.