The Shippensburg University women’s basketball team moved into sole possession of first place in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Eastern Division.
The Raiders (13-6, 10-3 PSAC) played tough defense and moved with extra energy to defeat Kutztown 76-63 in front of the home crowd Wednesday at Heiges Field House. Shippensburg and Kutztown were part of a three-way tie for first place in the PSAC Eastern Division heading into Wednesday’s matchup.
Both offenses got off to a slow start, but the Raiders were able to build up a 16-11 lead after one quarter of play.
SU held Kutztown to just 33% shooting and 23 points in the first half. However, the game was close until the Raiders pulled away with a 9-1 run over the final 1:16 of the first half. SU went into halftime with a 14-point lead.
Kutztown began the game playing zone defense, a scheme the Raiders have seen this season. Still, the Raiders’ offense struggled out of the gate. Instead of driving to the basket often, the team settled for too many 3-pointers.
The Raiders shot only 2-of-13 from 3-point range in the first half as they struggled at times to adjust to the zone defense. However, the team went 3-of-8 from beyond the arc in the third quarter, forcing Kutztown to switch to a man-to-man defense.
Kristy Trn, SU’s head coach, spoke about the adjustments the team made at halftime to force Kutztown out of its zone defense.
“We came back out, executed a little bit better and hit some 3-point shots which forced them to come out of the zone they were playing,” Trn said. “Once we got them to play us man-to-man, we started using our dribble motion and they had a very difficult time containing us.”
Junior Ariel Jones led the way for the Raiders, scoring 30 points on 9-of-21 shooting to go along with four rebounds, a block and three steals. However, she began the game shooting 4-of-9 overall and 0-of-3 from beyond the arc in the first half. She still had an impact on the game in the first half, going 8-of-10 from the free-throw line.
Jones’ 30 points brought her to 1,700 career points, moving past Janette Pieczynski (1,681 points) to reach seventh all-time in Shippensburg program history.
In the third quarter, Jones found her jump shot to the tune of three 3-pointers. After the game, Jones discussed her mindset on offense and how it evolved throughout the game.
“In the first quarter, my shots didn’t really fall. But coach tells me if they are not falling then get yourself to the basket,” Jones said. “I went to the basket, drew fouls, stayed aggressive and found my shot at the foul line which then led out to the 3-point line.”
It was a big win for the Raiders, who moved past Kutztown in the PSAC Eastern Division standings. Jones cited the team’s four-game losing streak to the Golden Bears as well as having first place of the division on the line as reasons why she, as well as the rest of the team, played with some extra energy and intensity on Wednesday night.
Sophomore Lauren Pettis also had a key performance off the bench in the Shippensburg victory. She tallied a season-high 14 points, nine rebounds and a career-high five blocks. Her efforts on the offensive boards played a big role in helping the Raider offense against Kutztown.
The Raiders wrapped up another successful week of basketball, and extended their winning streak to five games, with a 71-60 win on the road against Lock Haven University. The Raiders played a sloppy game, committing 21 turnovers and were down at halftime, but the team still managed to hang on for the win.
Jones finished the game with 24 points, including going 8-of-8 from the free-throw line, four rebounds, four assists and three steals. She hit a key 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter to give the Raiders some momentum heading into the final quarter of play.
Junior Destiny Jefferson began the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, giving the Raiders a 54-47 lead. Up until that point in the game, neither team had led by more than five points. Jefferson finished the game with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Lock Haven came within striking distance heading into the game’s final four minutes, but the Raiders went on a 7-0 run to extend the lead to 69-58 with 2:29 remaining. SU went on to win the game 71-60.
After East Stroudsburg’s loss to Gannon University on Saturday, the Raiders are in sole possession of first place in the PSAC Eastern Division. However, the Raiders are set to square up with ESU (13-6, 9-4 PSAC) on Saturday in a contest that could have major implications on the standings throughout the rest of the season. Tip off is at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Heiges Field House.