With a 69-53 win Wednesday over the Mercyhurst University Lakers, the second-ranked IUP men’s basketball team advanced to the semifinals of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Confrence (PSAC) Tournament.
Leading the way for the Crimson Hawks was sophomore Dante Lombardi (business), recording 20 points for IUP while shooting 7-of-13 from the floor.
Also recording double digits for IUP was senior Devon Cottrell (communications media) with 16 points, and sophomore Jacobo Diaz (economics) tallied 11.
The defense played a major role in the Crimson Hawks’ success in the quarterfinal matchup.
“I thought our defense set the tone with our aggressiveness,” IUP head coach Joe Lombardi said.
IUP’s defense forced 16 turnovers, gathered 11 steals and tallied five blocks.
The Crimson Hawks also received a boost from their bench.
Blake Three bench players recorded points as Blake Danielak (junior, finance and legal studies), Brandon Spain (senior, communications media) and Malik Miller (freshman, communications media) totaled 15 points.
“I think our bench gives us great minutes,” Lombardi said. “In a lot of ways, I feel like we have eight starters. That’s one of the biggest reasons we’ve had success, because our depth is greater than most.”
Moving forward, the Crimson Hawks will look to avenge one of their two losses this season as they will welcome Shippensburg University to the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Shippensburg defeated IUP, 87-80, Dec. 3. Although Shippensburg was one of the only two teams to hand IUP a loss (Fairmont State University was the other), this game should be another close one, Lombardi said.
“I think that both teams have gotten better as time has gone on,” he said. “Both teams have proved to be top 25 in the country.”
There is also some familiarity amongst the two head coaches, which could add to the game’s storyline.
From 2006 to 2013, Shippensburg head coach Chris Fite served as Lombardi’s top assistant coach.
Given Shippensburg’s victory earlier in the season, IUP will have to overcome the only team in the PSAC who has had an answer for the Crimson Hawks.
“It’s a matter of who can play harder longer,” Lombardi said.
For ticket information, visit IUPathletics.com. Students will continue to receive free admission with a valid I-Card.
The KCAC will host both PSAC men’s semifinal games as well as the PSAC men’s final on Sunday.