IUP holds off West Va. Wesleyan
Crimson Hawks advance to Second Round of NCAA tournament
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. -- IUP survived a second half scare that saw West Virginia Wesleyan cut a 21-point deficit down to six, and the Crimson Hawks advanced in the NCAA Atlantic Region tournament with a 66-59 victory against the Bobcats in a quarterfinal game Saturday in West Liberty, W.Va.
IUP (25-5) won its 12th in a row and will face Bowie State in the first semifinal game Sunday at 5 p.m. The Bulldogs defeated Mansfield 79-59 in their first round game. The Crimson Hawks avenged a 73-71 regular season loss to West Virginia Wesleyan and will look to do the same vs. Bowie State, which handed IUP a 71-68 defeat on November 20.
The second semifinal on Sunday at 7:30 will feature the winners of the evening session, with host West Liberty facing Slippery Rock and Shaw taking on Winston-Salem State. The semifinal winners will play for the Atlantic Region championship on Tuesday at 7 p.m. IUP is the defending region champion and advanced to the national title game last March.
Julian Sanders led IUP with 17 points, Darryl Webb had 14 points and 15 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the season and 53rd of his career and Ashton Smith tallied 12 points and dished out five assists. The Crimson Hawks held the Bobcats (19-11) to 34.9 percent shooting and held a 44-35 advantage on the boards.
Neven Zeravica paced West Virginia Wesleyan with 16 points followed by Reggie Chambers with 12 and Marquis Weddle with 10. Weddle, who scored 26 points in the earlier meeting vs. IUP this season, entered the game averaging 22.3 points per game, third highest in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
IUP, ranked No. 21 in the nation, led by as many as 14 in the first half before settling for a 33-24 advantage at the break. After West Virginia Wesleyan scored the first basket of the second half, Sanders scored seven straight points on a 3-pointer, a jumper and two free throws and then assisted on a Webb bucket to cap a 9-0 run that gave the Crimson Hawks a 42-26 lead with 16:13 left in the game.
A three-point play by Kevin Stewart at the 11:08 mark pushed the IUP lead to a seemingly comfortable 57-36, but the Crimson Hawks went cold, scoring only two points over the next 7:38 and missing six straight shots at one points, seeing their advantage drop below double digits when Zeravica hit a jumper to make it 59-50 with 3:55 remaining.
Webb made 1 of 2 free throws but Weddle answered with a 3-pointer to get the Bobcats within 62-56 with 3:04 left. Smith and Zeravica traded baskets to keep it a six-point game with 1:47 left before IUP got a free throw from Stewart, two from Scooter Renkin and another from Stewart with 26 seconds on the clock to push the margin up to 66-56.
The win increased IUP’s victory total over the past three seasons to 80 (22, 33 and 25), matching the 1993-94 through 1995-96 teams for the most wins over any three-year span in school history. The win was the first for IUP over West Virginia Wesleyan since the 1981-82 season and moved head coach Joe Lombardi within the 100 mark in his five seasons with the Crimson Hawks.