The Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) Crimson Hawks defeated the Mercyhurst men’s basketball team, 67-59, in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) quarterfinals Tuesday, March 3.
Mercyhurst took an early 8-3 lead with a three-pointer from Jean Onana, but Indiana quickly scored six straight points to regain the lead. With just four minutes remaining in the first half, IUP’s Shawn Dyer scored a three-pointer and created an 8-2 run for the Crimson Hawks. The first half ended, 29-23, with IUP in the lead.
At the start of the second half, Mercyhurst pulled within five points after Andy Hoying scored a free throw. With a little over twelve minutes remaining in the game, IUP took their largest lead, 41-31.
After three-pointers from Gerrae Williams and Onana, along with layups from Kayode Ajenifuja and Sean Beins, the Lakers were down 44-41 with eight minutes to play. The Lakers were on the verge of a comeback, but IUP gained an 11 point lead with two minutes left in regulation.
“We didn’t play like we usually do. We didn’t play defense the way we usually do. We didn’t execute well, shots weren’t going in, and on defense, we played without energy,” Onana said.
Mercyhurst was eliminated from the PSAC tournament, falling to a 20-8 overall record.
“I think anytime you win twenty games, division two especially, at this level you have to consider it a successful year. We started 1-3, finished in second, and exceeded all expectations. Having a legit chance for a first NCAA bid is definitely a successful year,”head coach Gary Manchel said.
As for the possibility of a playoff berth, both Onana and Manchel believe their chances rely on other teams.
“Waiting on all the results, and hoping for the best, we need help from other teams,” said Onana. “We need to be in the top five in general. Praying and crossing our fingers that we can make it.”
Sunday March 8, the basketball team received their first NCAA tournament berth in the history of the program.