After a loss on the road to West Chester University Wednesday, the Shippensburg University men’s basketball team (22-3, 18-3 PSAC) was looking to right the ship with a strong performance Saturday against Cheyney University (2-24, 2-19 PSAC).
The Raiders bounced back in a big way as Dustin Sleva bullied the Cheyney front court and seven different Raiders hit shots from 3-point range in a 97–64 win over the Wolves.
Sleva came into the game red-hot, scoring 10 points in the first six minutes of the contest. Cheyney had no answer for Sleva, as he scored a game-high 26 points and added 11 rebounds in the commanding victory.
SU used a strong start to take a 40–20 lead with 3:36 left in the first half, but a 9–0 scoring run by the Wolves made it 40–29 at the half.
In the second half, SU started to find its stroke from 3-point range after going 1-of-9 in the first half from behind the arc. The Raiders made 12-of-18 3-pointers in the second half to put the game out of reach. Four of SU’s second-half 3-pointers came from the sharpshooting Justin McCarthur. McCarthur finished 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 5-of-11 from the floor for 14 points.
The 12 players who were available for SU scored at least two points in the game, and the huge win is one that should help SU regain its confidence heading into the PSAC Tournament.
“It’s our 22nd win and it gets us one step closer to a regional seed in the [NCAA] tournament and potentially first place in the conference,” SU head coach Chris Fite said. “We’re not out of that yet but we just have to keep winning our games and take it one day at a time.”
Saturday was also Senior Day, as the Raiders honored Abe Massaley and Chris Nwandu before the game for their contributions to the team. Nwandu was unable to play because of an injury, but Massaley put on a show, scoring 15 points while dishing out 10 assists.
“They have been great,” Fite said of Massaley and Nwandu. “I am indebted to those guys for signing up to come here under iffy circumstances and really helping me turn this program around. I’m happy that they’re able to have a little bit of success here down the stretch and hopefully we can send them out on a winning note.”
For SU, Justin McCarthur also reached a career milestone, scoring his 1,000th career point in Wednesday’s loss to West Chester. Fittingly enough, SU’s record holder for 3-pointers in a single season scored his 1,000th career point on a 3-pointer.
“I wish I would’ve got it at home,” McCarthur said. “It’s still a big milestone and I’m happy I got it. I was glad to get it out of the way and I just want to get started on this playoff run.”
Upon scoring 1,000 points, McCarthur became the 31st player in SU history to reach 1,000 points, joining teammates Dustin Sleva and Abe Massaley.
“He’s been great,” Fite said of McCarthur. “We’ve got three 1,000-point scorers out there and probably more to come in the coming years. Those guys have been fantastic and J-Mac is really playing at a high level right now and we’re going to need him down the stretch.”
The Raiders will look to build on the momentum of the win against Cheyney into Wednesday, when they hit the road to take on East Stroudsburg University.
“We need to start building our confidence and peak at the right time,” Fite said. “Hopefully we can carry this through to Wednesday and play well up there.”
SU’s game against East Stroudsburg is the final game of the 2016-17 regular season. Tipoff from East Stroudsburg is set for 8 p.m.