Shippensburg lives to fight another day.
The Shippensburg University men’s basketball team, after losing in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championship game to Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) on Sunday, is in the NCAA Division II men’s basketball tournament.
The NCAA awarded an at-large bid to the Raiders (24-7, 18-4 PSAC), the No. 4 seed in the Atlantic Region of the tournament. SU will face No. 5-seed Fairmont State in the First Round on Friday in Indiana, Pennsylvania.
The Raiders ultimately fell short of winning the PSAC Tournament when IUP defeated SU 77-59 on Sunday at Heiges Field House.
Shippensburg trailed IUP by as much as 13 points in the first half before they began to chip away at the deficit. It was only an eight-point game, 36-28, at halftime. Shippensburg head coach Chris Fite said after the game that the team’s energy was lacking early in the game.
“I don’t know if the moment had our guys dazed or whether IUP just came out and played harder,” Fite said. “It took us awhile to get our legs under us, and at that point we were reeling and I don’t know if we ever got it back.”
The Raiders were never able to get within striking distance in the second half, as IUP countered every small run the Raiders put together. The closest SU came to tying the game was seven points.
IUP reserve Shawndale Jones, the 2020 PSAC Tournament MVP, scored 16 consecutive points for the Crimson Hawks to help them pull away from Shippensburg in the later stages of the second half.
Shippensburg’s offense struggled to get anything going against IUP. The team shot a season-low 27.7% from the field. It was also the lowest shooting percentage the team has had in a single game since 2010.
“I’m sure, across the board on our side, we would’ve liked to perform a little bit better,” Fite said after the loss. “I don’t think that diminishes or takes away from what the team has accomplished this year and how our guys have battled.”
Fite discussed how it will take a day or two for the sting of Sunday’s loss to go away. However, he also said the team will be ready for action if they make the NCAA Tournament.
The Raiders found out via the selection show on ncaa.com on Sunday night that their season will be continuing in the NCAA Tournament.
Shippensburg outrebounded IUP on the glass 50-41 in the loss on Sunday, resulting in a 22-13 advantage in second-chance points. Senior John Castello finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, including six offensive rebounds. Junior Kiyon Hardy led the team in rebounds with 10, but he struggled on offense to the tune of five points on 1-of-11 shooting.
The Raiders will have to get their offense going again to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament. The team has shot the ball 36.5% from the field and 28.2% from 3-point range in their last seven games since the Feb. 12 win over Millersville.
The Raiders face Fairmont State in the First Round on Friday at Indiana, Pennsylvania. The time is to be determined.