Despite holding a one-point lead at the half, the Shippensburg University men’s basketball team (16–0, 11–0 PSAC) found its stride in the second half to defeat Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) East foe Lock Haven University (8–7, 4–7 PSAC), 86–70 at Thomas Fieldhouse Jan. 14.
The win was the Raiders’ 16th-straight win, but it did not come easy. In the first half, Lock Haven was setting the tone by getting to the basket with ease. Lock Haven’s Amir Hinton scored eight points in the game’s opening half and the Bald Eagles trailed 36–35 at the half.
“It’s really hard to win on the road in this conference,” SU head coach Chris Fite said. “We were a little bit flat early on tonight, and I don’t know if it was as much as us being flat as it was them playing harder than us. We did a nice job of hanging around in the first half and keeping it tight and we came out in the second half and changed things.”
The Raiders have done a good job all season of adjusting after the half, as SU adjusted once again, using a 14–0 run with 18:37 left in the second half, getting nine of the 14 points from Justin McCarthur to take a double-digit lead for the rest of the game. SU forced four turnovers and the Bald Eagles shot 0-of-9 from the field during the scoring run.
The run started with a 3-pointer by SU’s Dustin Sleva, and McCarthur took over from there. McCarthur finished the game with a season-high 24 points, while also adding four assists and a team-high three steals. McCarthur has been lights out from 3-point range recently, shooting 10-of-16 from deep in his last two games. SU outscored Lock Haven 50–35 in the second half.
“We had really good high percentage looks,” Fite said. “We pass the ball well and we got each other open looks and fortunately J-Mac and Dustin were great for us offensively in the second half to get us through.”
It was also a big night for SU’s Sleva, who erupted for 27 points – 20 in the second half alone – to reach the 1,000-point mark. On a free-throw with 2:25 remaining in the game, Sleva became the 30th player in SU history to reach 1,000 career points.
“It means I picked the right school,” Sleva said. “It’s my first 1,000 points, I didn’t reach it in high school with injuries and everything, but I’m glad I got it over with.”
Upon scoring his 1,000th point, Sleva had no idea he had accomplished history. He also finds himself in hot water because his mother was not in attendance to witness him reaching the 1,000-point mark.
“If I had known I probably would’ve missed the free-throw,” Sleva said laughing. “I wanted to get it at home because my mom will probably be mad that she didn’t get to see it, but my dad was here and my brothers were as well, so it was great to get it in front of them, but my whole family is probably going to come up Wednesday to celebrate it.”
“He’s great,” Fite said. “All these guys are really good players, Abe [Massaley] got his 1,000th point earlier this year and I’m sure that J-Mac, Antonio [Kellem and [John] Castello will do it too. I’m proud of Dustin and how far he has come and how far he has helped this program advance. I’m even more excited about where the team is at and he’s a big part of that.”
The Raiders, 15–0, 11–0 in the PSAC, host East Stroudsburg University in a pivotal test against the Warriors to decide first-place in the PSAC East Jan. 18. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Heiges Field House.