After losing to Kutztown University Feb. 1, the Shippensburg University men’s basketball team has been working hard to get back on the right foot.
The Raiders (21–2, 17–2 PSAC) did that and then some Saturday, using a late scoring run to blow by Mansfield University (9–13, 7–12 PSAC), 81–63. The Mounties trailed 62–60 with 6:14 left in the contest, but a layup by John Castello kickstarted the SU offense to a 19–3 run to close out the game.
Mansfield refused to go away early in the game, taking an 11–2 lead out of the gates, prompting SU head coach Chris Fite to call a timeout. Following the time out, SU cut the Mountie lead to three just four minutes later.
The teams exchanged scoring runs for most of the first half, but SU closed the half with a 37–32 lead. Mansfield got some high-percentage shots in the first half, finishing the half at 53.8 percent from the field. Cedrick Powell led the Mounties with 14 points in the half.
Dustin Sleva had a strong first half for SU. Sleva scored 12 points and pulled in seven rebounds in the game’s first twenty minutes.
The second half was more of the same, as the Mounties continued to use strong cuts to the basket to keep themselves within striking distance.
SU started the second half on fire, and a 3-pointer by Sleva with 16:22 left gave SU a 47–38 lead. Then, the Mounties cut the deficit to just two with a 3-pointer by Andreas Katopodis with 6:14 left to play.
The Raiders rode their hot-shooting wave the rest of the way, as a 3-pointer by Justin McCarthur at the shot-clock buzzer extended SU’s lead to 18 with 44 seconds to play. This put the final nail in the Mountie coffin.
“It was great,” Fite said. “It was tense for a little bit when they cut it to two, and they had us on their heels some. But our guys responded well, and we made the plays we needed to on the defensive and offensive side down the stretch.”
Despite Mansfield’s record, the Mounties have proven to be a tough team to face. The struggling squad took No. 9 Kutztown to overtime twice this season, but came up short in both PSAC East battles.
“They are a good team,” Fite said. “I tried to tell our guys that. They are playing really well, and at this point in the season, any win is a good one. And we beat a good team tonight.”
It was a career day for Sleva, who scored a career-high 33 points on the way to the win. Sleva also added 12 rebounds to complete the double-double. McCarthur also added 21 points while Castello had eight points and 14 rebounds.
“Overall it’s been good,” Sleva said. “I’ve kind of been stuck on 28 even since high school. I had 28 points maybe five or six times in high school, but its great to finally break the 30-point mark. We had an overall good game, and we had a lot of guys step up. We just need to get ready for the playoffs.”
With the win, SU improved to 21–2, 17–2 in the PSAC. The win was enough to surpass last season’s total when SU finished 20–9 before falling to Mercyhurst University in the PSAC Semifinals.
With Wednesday’s win over Lock Haven University, Fite became the first head coach in SU history to reach the 20-win mark in multiple seasons. The 21 wins are also second-most in school history.
The Raiders will try to push their win total to 22 on Wednesday at West Chester University. An East Stroudsburg University loss Saturday gave the Raiders some cushion in the standings, but SU will look to lock up one of the Top 2 seeds in the PSAC East Division with a win.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m at West Chester.