Women's basketball will enter the 2012 NCAA Division II Tournament as No. 5 seed in Atlantic Region
Published: Monday, March 5, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 13:03
The Crimson Hawks women's basketball team waited patiently Sunday night as they watched the NCAA Division II selection show, not to see if they would make it, but to see who they would be matched up against. Getting in came as no surprise.
"We've got four wins over teams ranked in the top seven in the region," IUP Head Coach Jeff Dow said. "Outside of Edinboro, I'm not sure that any team can say that."
The Crimson Hawks (22-6, 11-4) earned a No. 5 seed in the Atlantic Region. Their opponent, No. 4 seed Bloomsburg Huskies (26-5, 18-4), is the same team that defeated the Hawks on Friday in the Semifinals of the PSAC conference tournament. This will be IUP's first NCAA tournament appearance since the 2008-09 season.
"Thrilled" and "excited," were words used by Dow to describe the emotions of continuing the season.
"It's been almost kind of a fairytale ride all season long, and now it continues," he said.
It will be the third meeting between the two teams. The Crimson Hawks defeated the Huskies Dec. 3 84-79, but Bloomsburg got its redemption when it mattered most. The final score was 75-67. Bloomsburg, however, would lose in the championship game to host Edinboro, also the host team for the opening rounds of the Atlantic Region.
"Obviously we weren't nearly as good defensively as we needed to be," Dow said. "I thought their veteran poise really showed up throughout the game with some of the plays they made."
The Crimson Hawks came out with something to prove and were able to sustain an early 11-0 lead behind the three-point shooting of freshman guard Marita Mathe.
"We've had some sluggish starts this year. I think that helped us to overcome that," Bloomsburg Head Coach Bill Cleary said.
In the ensuing minutes, the Huskies used clutch shooting to build a run of their own and eventually tie the game at 20. The Hawks were beginning to force a few shots and giving up rebounds, which ultimately led to the 20-9 run by Bloomsburg.
Bloomsburg took its first lead of the game at the 6:29 mark, 25-24, before IUP went on a 7-0 run and took a 31-25 lead with 2:29 to play.
The Huskies used the final minutes of the half to to cut into IUP's lead and ultimately take a 36-35 lead going into the break.
The second half opened up with IUP regaining the lead, but once again clutch shooting by the Huskies put them ahead. The Crimson Hawks would tie the game on several occasions, and with 5:43 remaining, would get their first lead in 10 plus minutes.
On IUP's next possession, still leading by one, a shot clock violation resulted in another turnover and shifted the momentum to Bloomsburg. They would capitalize off the turnover and put the Hawks in desperation mode for the remainder of the game.
The potential dagger for the Hawks came with 3:24 left to play with the game tied at 63. Bloomsburg's 5 foot 6 inch guard, Dana Weiller, pulled down an offensive rebound away from three IUP defenders, got fouled, and made both free throw attempts, giving the Huskies the lead for good. Weiller was 8-8 from the free throw line and finished the game with 13 points.
The lack of rebounding was something that plagued the Hawks throughout the course of the matchup. The Huskies out rebounded the Hawks by nine, 43-34. In the first matchup, IUP was a plus 22 in the rebounding department, and gave up only four offensive rebounds. On Friday, the Hawks gave up 16 offensive rebounds.
"As good as they are, you can't give them 16 offensive rebounds and get out rebounded by nine, it just makes it tough," Dow said.
Free throw shooting and IUP turnovers were something the Huskies used to their advantage as well. Bloomsburg went to the line 39 times, converting on 34 attempts, which ultimately led to the victory. They also outscored the Hawks in the points off of turnovers department, 24-15.
Junior Sarah Pastorek led the way for the Hawks with 19 points, 17 of which came in the second half. She also finished 11-14 from the foul line.
"I didn't do as well in the first half, so I wanted to come out in the second half and be stronger than I was and help the team out any way I could," Pastorek said.
Outside of Pastorek, two other Crimson Hawks scored in double figures. Mathe added 13 points, and Ashley Stoner finished with 10.
Heading into the NCAA tournament, the Crimson Hawks haven't lost two games in a row all season.
"That obviously gives me a lot of confidence that we won't lose," Dow said. "This team clearly has shown a great deal of resilience all season long when you consider a number of factors."
Those factors include illnesses and injuries, something that has haunted the Hawks all season long.
"It's only been recently that we've been able to play with our full squad. In spite of all that, we've never lost two in a row," he said.