During the early stages of an NCAA basketball team’s schedule, when it’s playing only non-conference opponents, it can be a challenge to grasp a team’s makeup.
But one thing is evident through the first two weeks of the Shippensburg University men’s basketball team’s season: it can win games in different ways, and that’s a trait that will pay dividends in the playoffs in March.
The Raiders (3-1) continued their hot start last week with an 81-68 win over Bowie State University at Heiges Field House and a 77-69 road victory at Wilmington University.
SU was effective from behind the 3-point line against Bowie State, shooting 5-of-13 (38.5%). The Raiders also hit several mid-range jump shots against the Bulldogs, led by junior shot-creator Jake Biss.
Against Wilmington, the Raiders were forced to take more of an inside-out approach as they struggled mightily from 3-point range. SU hit just 4-of-21 3-pointers (19%) against the Wildcats.
SU had to play a physical brand of basketball and dominated inside and on the glass. The Raiders scored a whopping 50 points in the paint, relative to the Wildcats’ 28. SU also nearly doubled up Wilmington in total rebounds. They held a 48-26 advantage.
The style of play was contrary to the norm for the Raiders, who tend to build their offense around their 3-point shooting precision.
“That’s what we do; we shoot 3-pointers,” Coach Chris Fite said. “We recruit along those lines too. We like to stretch the floor.”
But having the ability to win by playing bully-ball close to the rim is a valuable asset for a team to have, and it bodes well for the Raiders’ hopes in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).
The Raiders got off to a hot start in the home win over Bowie State. They made each of their first six field goal attempts and led 9-0 after three minutes of action.
Biss and senior John Castello led the Raiders against the Bulldogs with 18 points apiece. Sophomore Carlos Carter scored a career-high 13 points, all of which came in the first half.
Junior Kiyon Hardy — a transfer from Kutztown University — showed his value as an explosive spark plug off the bench. He sprung to nine points and nine rebounds.
“He’s a great piece of the puzzle for us,” Fite said. “He could start on most teams in this conference. He plays a great role for us, and even though he comes off the bench, he’s gonna play 25 or 30 minutes a night. He can play multiple positions, and he can guard multiple positions.”
Against Wilmington, Castello took over as the Raiders’ main scorer. The senior scored a season-high 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Carter came just shy of a double-double and filled up the stat sheet. He finished with nine points, 10 rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block.
Biss struggled to score against the Wildcats, shooting just 4-of-14. But he made his impact felt elsewhere, dishing out six assists, grabbing three rebounds and notching a career-high four steals. Biss is tied for second in the PSAC with nine steals through four games.
The Raiders are set to continue their non-conference schedule on Tuesday with a 3 p.m. home tilt with Dickinson College at Heiges Field House.