Before Saturday’s contest against No. 12 Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), Shippensburg University coach Chris Fite was challenged to improve the team to 6–0 — a feat that no prior men’s basketball team at SU has ever accomplished.
The Raiders found themselves facing a tough task in IUP’s home gym. The Raiders used an unbelievable day at the free-throw line, (shooting 36-of-40, including 27-of-29 in the second half) to upset No. 12 IUP, 87–80.
SU knew it would take a strong start to get past IUP, and came out on fire. The Raiders shot the lights out of the gym, shooting 59 percent from the field in the opening half, including 50 percent from 3-point range and 81.8 percent from the charity stripe.
The Raiders kept IUP in check in the first half as they shot 40 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from deep. SU forced IUP into nine first-half turnovers and used them to its advantage, scoring 11 points off of those turnovers. The Raiders took a 47–31 lead into the half.
After trading baskets, the Raiders held a double-digit lead. A 3-pointer in the third period by SU’s Clay Conner gave SU a 16-point lead with 10 minutes left to play.
IUP would not go away. The Crimson Hawks caught fire and torched SU, going on an unbelievable 20–6 run to take the lead with 4:41 remaining. IUP’s Dante Lombardi had seven points on the scoring run.
SU responded with a run of its own to close out the game. The Raiders used a 10–0 run over a four-minute span where it forced four turnovers to take back the lead and secure the win. The run was fueled by multiple trips to the free-throw line by senior Abe Massaley and junior Justin McCarthur. Both Massaley and McCarthur went a perfect 4-for-4 at the line to seal the victory.
The Raiders had four players score in double figures during the game including Massaley, who scored a game-high 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 8-of-8 at the free-throw line. Massaley also tallied four assists and three steals in the win.
McCarthur had 21 points including three 3-pointers and a 10-of-10 clip at the free-throw line. He is the first player for SU since junior Dustin Sleva last season against Bloomsburg to go 10-of-10 at the charity stripe in a single game.
Sleva also had a strong performance, narrowly missing his sixth-straight double-double. Sleva finished the game with 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds and six assists.
Freshman John Castello also added 10 points.
Clay Conner had a strong game as the sixth man, scoring seven points in 12 minutes of action off the bench.
Overall, SU shot 44 percent from the field in the win, including 41 percent (9-of-22) from 3-point range. IUP shot 54 percent in the second half (48 percent overall) despite chucking up 35 3-pointers.
Saturday’s win is the first time that SU has defeated IUP since Feb. 27, 2008. The win snaps a six-game losing streak to the Crimson Hawks, in which the Raiders lost by an average of 18 points per game.
The Raiders, (6–0, 3–0 PSAC), then traveled to Seton Hill University to battle the Griffins on Sunday.