Despite Dustin Sleva and John Castello only playing 12 combined minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, the Shippensburg University men’s basketball team rallied in the second half to down rival Millersville, 96–75 Jan. 3 at Heiges Field House.
The Raiders, 11–0, 7–0 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), continued their best start in school history with the win. SU was ranked No. 14 in the latest National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Poll released on Tuesday, as the team is one of eight unbeaten teams left in Division II men’s basketball.
The game between PSAC East Division rivals was closely contested in the first half with SU leading by just three at the break, with Sleva, Castello and Justin McCarthur all in foul trouble early.
“Even though we were in foul trouble, I felt that Millersville just played with greater energy than us and they were a little bit tougher than us so that was the conversation at halftime,” SU head coach Chris Fite said. “We needed to change our energy in the game and play a little bit harder and everything else took care of itself.”
Fite’s message was received at halftime, as SU shot the lights out in the second half, knocking down 21-of-34 shots (61.8 percent) in the second half, including 8-of-18 from 3-point range.
The Raiders used a barrage of 3-pointers to doom the Marauders after the break. The Raiders hit six 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes of the second half, with three of them coming from McCarthur. The Raiders held a 72–50 lead with 12:07 left to play.
With the victory, the Raiders start out PSAC East Division play with back-to-back wins. Fite however, addressed the team’s need to take the season game by game.
“Right now, it’s just one game at a time,” Fite said. “We have about seven weeks left in the season and we just need to keep focusing on our next opponent and keep playing with confidence and we will see where the chips will fall.”
With the win, Fite improved his record with the Raiders to 47–46, which is remarkable considering the Raiders lost 42 of their first 63 games under Fite. The Raiders are now 26–4 in their last 30 games under Fite.
“It’s pretty sweet,” Fite said. “I’m proud of our guys and the way we played and how we keep growing week after week and hopefully we can keep it rolling.”
In the victory, five players finished the game in double figures for the Raiders. McCarthur led the way with 19 points while dishing out five assists. Sleva registered his eighth double-double on the season with 18 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high seven assists. Abe Massaley and Castello each added 13 points while Antonio Kellem added 12 points for the Raiders.
The Raiders, 11–0, 7–0 PSAC, will be back in action on Jan. 6 when they host Bloomsburg University. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. at Heiges Field House.