The fight for seeding was in full swing this week as the Shippensburg University men’s basketball team took on two conference foes in Millersville University and Lock Haven University.
Coming into the week’s contests, the Raiders were one game behind second-place East Stroudsburg University in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Eastern Conference.
Wednesday’s matchup with the Marauders offered plenty of action. Both teams fought valiantly at different points of the game, with the final several minutes of the second half featuring a couple lead changes.
MU came back from a 12-point halftime deficit to eventually take a one-point lead with eight minutes left, but SU used an 8–0 run with just more than three minutes to go to put the game away for good, claiming the victory by a score of 81–76.
The Raiders did not have their best day on the floor, shooting .426 from the field overall and just .292 from beyond the arc — well below their season average of .346 from three-point territory.
SU did do a good job getting to the line all night, earning 19 free throws and converting on 16 — good enough for just more than 84 percent.
Sophomore Jake Biss led the charge on offense for the Raiders, finishing with 24 points. Biss has been a big piece to SU’s success this season, scoring more than 20 points in three consecutive games.
There have only been two games this season in which Biss did not reach double figures. He has stepped nicely into the shoes left by alumni and past guards Clay Conner and Abe Massaley.
The Marauders became just the fifth opponent to finish with more made three-pointers than the Raiders, claiming 11 to SU’s seven.
Rebounds, however, were a different story. SU has been dominant in recent weeks on the boards, continuing that trend against MU with a 45–32 advantage in total rebounds for the game.
Junior John Castello was reliable as always, finishing with a solid stat line of 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Fellow junior Lamar Talley impressed with his second career double-double, contributing 12 points — including a couple crucial three-pointers down the stretch — and 12 rebounds.
In their following contest with the Bald Eagles, the Raiders were even more impressive, pulling away from LHU right from the start and never looking back.
Biss was a machine once again, leading the Raiders to a dominant 100–70 win with a 23-point performance on Saturday afternoon from Heiges Field House.
The SU offense was on fire in the first half, shooting 67 percent from the field overall and 75 percent from three-point range (6-for-8). Coach Chris Fite was pleased with the first-half performance.
“Our guys are very comfortable here at home and it showed, offensively. We really locked in the scouting report and did a good job of taking them out of the stuff they like to do,” he said.
Biss could not be stopped, and finished a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc. He shot 75 percent from the field and added three assists and two rebounds. The bench was strong in the game, contributing 36 points.
Redshirt-sophomore Derek Ford was the standout on the bench, scoring a career-high 11 points on 3-for-4 shooting. He added two steals and a three-pointer. Ford has only missed one shot so far this season, sitting at an impressive 12-for-13 and 3-for-3 from three.
One of the highlights of the afternoon came on a beautiful play in the first half. Talley found freshman Carlos Carter on a breakaway with an alley-oop for a big slam. The Heiges faithful rose to their feet after the dunk — serving as an exclamation mark on a fun game for the Raiders.
Castello chipped in a solid 16 points on .538 shooting with five rebounds and two assists. Senior Antonio Kellem played an all-around impressive game, grabbing 10 points and five assists. He also had a career-high four steals without a turnover.
The Bald Eagles did not go down without a fight and came back much stronger in the second half, actually outscoring the Raiders, 49–46.
Fite wished his team would have kept its foot on the gas coming out of the break, but he was still happy with the final result.
“You get a lead like that and you want guys to still perform with the same purpose and intensity level, but we allowed them to do some stuff in the second half that made me a little uncomfortable even though we were comfortably ahead,” Fite said after the game.
With the week’s wins, the Raiders head into the final stretch of the regular season before the conference tournament. The team will look to finish strong and start the postseason on a strong note.
“We got to keep working and not be comfortable with anything. Even though it’s coach speak, it’s taking it one game at a time and understanding that every game is as valuable as the next at this point and hopefully we’ll be playing our best basketball over the next couple weeks,” Fite said.
SU has to travel to Mansfield University on Saturday for the first of its last three games of the regular season. Tipoff is at 3 p.m.