Tech’s men’s basketball team faced a surprising challenge from Division II school Indiana of Pa. in Sunday’s exhibition game, but the Jackets held off the visiting Crimson Hawks and secured an 84-76 overtime victory at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
“It was a strange game… I was expecting us to play better than we did last week, and we didn’t,” said Head Coach Paul Hewitt.
Hewitt tried to get as many players involved as possible due to the nature of the contest. Still, IUP stayed close throughout and Hewitt ended up leaning on his starters for much of the game. The lone exception was sophomore guard Iman Shumpert, who was nursing a minor hamstring injury and was set to play no more than ten minutes.
“It was just a safety precaution. I felt good. My [injury] wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” Shumpert said.
The exhibition match marked the first collegiate game action for four Tech freshmen. Forward Derrick Favors and guard Mfon Udofia both started and played more than 30 minutes apiece. Favors had 15 points and led the team with nine rebounds and three blocks. Udofia struggled on the offensive end, hitting just three of 11 field goal attempts, but he had a solid performance as the team’s main ball handler and finished with six assists.
Forward Brian Oliver and guard Glen Rice Jr. also took the court in Tech uniforms for the first time. Each scored five points.
Tech’s returning stars performed well. Junior forward Gani Lawal had 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting and added eight rebounds, including four on the offensive end. Redshirt senior wing D’Andre Bell, playing his first game since the end of the 2007-08 season, had 10 points and nine assists.
Early on, it appeared that the Jackets would cruise. Shumpert hit three straight three-pointers to put Tech ahead 13-6, appeasing some concerns that the team lacked a reliable outside shooter.
“When you’ve got D’Andre Bell penetrating and Mfon penetrating, and then you’ve got Gani and Favors down there… as long as you’re slotting around there looking for a shot, you can get one off,” Shumpert said.
The Jackets expanded the lead to 19-11, but IUP fought back thanks to senior forward Akida McLain, who played two-plus seasons at Boston College before joining IUP. McLain scored seven straight points on a dunk, a jumper, and a three-pointer to bring IUP to within one point.
The teams traded runs to close the half. Four Tech players scored as part of an 11-2 run, but IUP took 10 of the final 14 points in the half. Tech led 36-30 at the break.
Helped by three Jackets turnovers, the Crimson Hawks jumped out of the gate in the second half and scored eight unanswered points to take the lead.
Tech stayed close, never allowing IUP to lead by more than three, and took a 54-52 lead on a three-pointer from sophomore guard Lance Storrs. The Jackets increased their lead but were unable to put away the Crimson Hawks, and with less than a minute left, the game was tied at 72.
A Storrs three-pointer with three seconds left was off the mark. IUP had a chance to win, but McLain’s desperation three from midcourt fell just short, and the game went to overtime.
Despite being outscored in the second half 42-36, Tech was able to recover and take control in the extra period.
“[IUP] went back to the man, and that gave us opportunities,” Hewitt said.
Tech pulled ahead 80-76, and IUP began to foul after missed shots. Junior guard Moe Miller hit four free throws to secure the lead, and Tech went on to win by a final score of 84-76.
The Jackets officially open the season at home on Saturday against Florida A&M.