With a 9–0 start for the 2016-17 season, the Shippensburg University men’s basketball team has been fantastic but is far from being satisfied.
With an opportunity to make a tremendous statement against nationally ranked No. 13 Kutztown University, the No. 18 Raiders were more than up to the task, using a remarkable first half to blow by Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) East Division rival Kutztown, 97–82 at Keystone Arena.
The Raiders offense exploded from the opening tip, scoring at will all half. The Raiders dominated, scoring 51 points in the opening frame, while limiting Kutztown to just 36 first-half points. The Raiders never looked back.
“It’s great,” SU head coach Chris Fite said. “At this point, every win is as important as the next. Obviously this is a great team, and to come into their gym and win certainly says a lot about our team and our character and what we are capable of. It definitely shows me how good we are and how good we can be if we just keep working.”
Dustin Sleva continued his dominance early in the first half, scoring 12 points on 3-of-6 shooting to get the Raiders going early. Abe Massaley was also productive, scoring nine points, while also pulling in six rebounds and dishing out five assists.
Perhaps most impressive for the Raiders was freshman John Castello, who had his best game as a Raider thus far, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the first half alone to register his fifth double-double of the season in just the opening half.
In the second half, the teams were even in points scored, but everything else was tilted toward the Raiders. SU was unbelievable from the field in the win, shooting 11-of-20 in the second half, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range while knocking down a remarkable 19-of-20 free-throws. The Raiders shot 28-of-31 from the line in the game.
The Raiders have been spectacular at the free-throw line all season, using a similar formula it used to get by then No. 12 Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where SU knocked down 36-of-40 free-throws.
“That’s been great for us,” Fite said. “We’ve done a really good job with our foul discipline on the defensive end and offensively, when we get fouled we make teams pay. It certainly makes a difference.”
The Raiders kept PSAC East Division Player of the Year Josh Johnson in check all night, limiting him to just eight points on 4-of-6 shooting and two rebounds. Johnson fouled out in the second half.
The win gives the Raiders two statement wins over ranked teams, this one in convincing fashion. The win gives the Raiders their first win in PSAC East Division play, and improves the best start in school history to 10 wins and zero losses.
SU was once again led by Sleva, who finished the game with a career-high 28 points, to go along with nine rebounds and six assists. Castello was magnificent on the night, setting career-highs of 23 points and 18 rebounds.
“[Sleva and Castello] are tough kids,” Fite said. “They are competitors and unselfish and they get in there and do the dirty work and seem to come out with the goods every night. It doesn’t look like they are blowing you away night after night and when you look at the stat sheet at the end of the night they are filling up a lot of columns.”
For the Raiders, the win over Kutztown in dominating fashion showed that this team is taking the PSAC by storm and is ready to continue rolling in division play.
The Raiders, 10–0, 6–0 PSAC, will head home Jan. 3 to face Millersville University. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Heiges Field House.