Okay, it’s time for a quick show of hands. Who among those who follow PSAC basketball would’ve predicted that Kutztown would be tied for the top spot in the PSAC Eastern Division with East Stroudsburg at this early of the season?
Ah, I see one in the back. Well, please forward next week’s winning Powerball numbers to this writer at your earliest convenience.
While it’s too early to start the coronation in Berks County, the Golden Bears made a statement that they’re as good as any team in the East – including pre-season favorites like East Stroudsburg, Mansfield, and Cheyney.
Granted, the first two wins of the season for the Golden Bears (10-5, 3-0 PSAC East) were against the bottom two teams in the division – Bloomsburg and Shippensburg, neither of whom had a win in the league entering the week.
However, Wednesday night’s 73-62 win by the Bears over West Chester at Hollinger Field House proved that point, as for the second consecutive home game, the Golden Rams (10-5, 1-2 PSAC East) were in foul trouble for most of the contest.
As was the case against East Stroudsburg last Saturday, the Rams saw their opponent take more than twice as many foul shots as they did. It also didn’t help West Chester’s cause when they misfired on two out of every three field goal attempts (22-for-66 for the game).
Things were promising for the Rams in the first half, as West Chester led by as many as eight points – 16-8 – with 11 minutes left in the first half. Elie Daniel scored seven of his 13 points in that stretch to give the Rams the early advantage.
Senior Kehinde Roberts, who has been a key contributor coming off the bench since his return to the lineup following off-season shoulder surgery, added five of his game high 17 points in the first half, including a three pointer with 8:42 left in the first half to make it 19-12 West Chester.
From there, however, Kutztown took control, as Steve Coffey came off the bench to ignite a 22-11 rally. Coffey, a senior from Reading, scored eight of his 14 points in the final five minutes of the half to give the Bears momentum down the stretch. That included a pair of three pointers, the second of which gave Kutztown the lead for good in the final two minutes of the half.
The decisive moment for Kutztown came with 5.2 second left in the half, as Daniel fouled Julius Gray as the senior all-league pre-season selection from Oxford attempted a three pointer. Gray would sink all three foul shots to give the Bears a 34-30 lead at halftime.
The Rams never seemed to recover from the waning minutes of the first half.
Despite keeping the Kutztown lead within two points early in the half – it was 39-37 with 16:28 left in regulation – scored 12 unanswered points to pull away from the home standing Rams.
The Rams committed their tenth team foul of the half with 8:47 remaining, placing the Bears in a double bonus situation for the rest of the game. Kutztown had already gone to the foul line 12 times by that point, compared to only two trips to the charity stripe for West Chester.
Gray finished with 15 points for Kutztown, while Nate Edwards added 14. As a team, the Bears shot 22-for-48 (46 percent) from the field, and converted 25-of-37 (68 percent) of their free throw attempts.
Shannon Givens finished with 8 points for West Chester, as he struggled from the field (2-for-17). The Rams only attempted 14 foul shots, converting 11.
West Chester begins a three game road trip today at Millersville, followed by games at Shippensburg (Wednesday) and at Bloomsburg (next Saturday) before returning home for a Groundhog Day showdown against arch-rival Cheyney.
Creighton Rabs covers West Chester University athletics for glowbass.com. He is neither affiliated with nor employed by West Chester University. Feedback can be emailed to [email protected].