Big Second Half for Statesmen in Win Over Missouri Valley

Marshall, Mo.–The William Penn men’s basketball team concluded its Heart of America Athletic Conference schedule Wednesday with a sojourn down to Missouri Valley College. The Vikings (8-12, 6-9 Heart) were at the bottom of the standings in the southern half of the conference, but put up quite the fight on home soil. Down one at the half, the Statesmen dominated the second half, outscoring the Vikings 53-31, en route to a 94-73 victory. The team improves its record to 20-1 overall and will conclude regular-season conference play with an 18-1 mark.

The victory pushes the navy and gold over the 20-win plateau for the ninth season in a row. It is the 14th time in the past 17 years that WPU has won at least 20 games.

A classic Statesmen start saw the tip come to Karmari Newman (Sr., Detroit, Mich., Digital Communication), who made the shot from five feet beyond the top of the arc. A quick two from the home side followed, but Ahmad Pender (Sr., Chicago, Ill, Wellness & Recreation) scored next for the navy and gold on a quick pivot down low. He then scored on a powerful drive to the hoop the next trip down the court to put WPU up by five.

The Vikings finally got the engine going, coming back from a 9-2 deficit to trail 11-9. A steal by Brandon Faison (Sr., Charlotte, N.C., Sports Management), however, sprung Q Cager (Sr., Hopkinsville, Ky., Wellness and Recreation) the other way for an easy layup. Faison made it four unanswered with a short jumper to keep William Penn ahead. Missouri Valley would answer, though, and took its first lead with just under 14 minutes to go, inching out to a 16-15 advantage.

With the home side humming along, William Penn soon trailed 22-17 with 12 minutes to go, as turnovers plagued the team in the offensive end. While the visitors were making mistakes, Pender individually continued his torrid pace, knocking down a triple to make it a three-point game. The senior’s hot start kept WPU in the ball game, with the team trailing 25-22 midway through the first half.

After the media timeout, Chanze Cruesoe (So., St. Louis, Mo., Business Management) delivered his first field goal on a pass from Kevion Blaylock (Sr., Houston, Texas, Information Technology), as Chanze took it from the near wing and stormed to the basket. Now down by one, Eddie Daley (Sr., DeWitt, Mich., Business Management) made a pair of free throws to put WPU on top 26-25. Those two sparked what turned out to be a 13-0 run that saw William Penn take a 34-27 lead.

Unfortunately, the Vikings would not let the Statesmen run away, as they once more worked the lead down from eight points to just one. The final two minutes were mostly fruitless for each side, but the Vikings nailed a baseline shot with 44 seconds to go to take a 42-41 lead into the intermission.

At the half, the Statesmen held a 27-17 lead in rebounds, but had 14 turnovers to just eight for MVC. WPU shot 44% from the floor in the frame. Pender led all players with 15 points, while Blaylock had 10 rebounds in the first 20 minutes.

It was also Blaylock who helped William Penn produce a 10-0 run to start the second half, scoring the first four points of the frame to put the Statesmen up 45-42. The hot shooting continued, with makes from Pender and Newman lifting the Statesmen to a 51-42 lead.

Turnovers let MVC back into the matchup, but Newman delieverd another downtown shot to swing momentum back to the navy and gold. Despite some strong offensive play from the Statesmen, the Vikings scrounged up four three-point shots in a row to keep the score within one point.

Blaylock continued to be a force in the half, though, quickly reaching 14 points and 14 rebounds within the first nine minutes of the half. Faison emerged again as the minutes rolled along, getting an assist to send the team on a 11-4 run.

After a make by Faison, Nathan Gehring (Sr., Waukee, Iowa) made a steal in the backcourt and landed the dunk to put the navy and gold up 69-61. After the media timeout, Gehring made his second slam on a nice pick-and-roll play with Cager. He then tipped home a ball near the rim to put WPU up 73-65 with just under nine minutes remaining.

Faison made it five straight points to push the lead to 12, as the team went up through the gears at both ends in the middle stages of the second half. Josh Watkins (Sr., Chicago, Ill., Sports Management) then made his presence felt, making his first three of the night, putting WPU up 83-67.

With five minutes to go, the Statesmen led 87-69, as both teams made a couple shots in the key. The real blow to the VIkings came when Newman hit a dagger of a deep ball as the shot clock expired with 2:57 remaining. That brought the bench to its feet and Newman earned a fist pump from Coach Henry on the sideline. With the lead going over 20 points on a drive by Cruesoe, the Vikings finally ran out of steam. The buzzer sounded with the Statesmen winning 94-73.

William Penn shot 54% from the field and used strong defensive play in the second frame to hold Missouri Valley to 36% on the night. WPU was 7-23 from downtown, 9-11 from the charity stripe, and won the rebound battle 52-33, with 13 offensive boards and 39 defensive rebounds.

Five players hit double figures, led by Pender, who posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds. Blaylock surged to 16 points and 17 rebounds, while Faison had 14 points and four assists. Newman was 4-8 from deep en route to 14 points, six assists, and three rebounds, while Cruesoe had 10 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Gehring finished with eight points, and Daley had six points and six rebounds in his return to the hardwood.

“We were sluggish in the first half, but Ahmad Pender kept us in the game,” said Head Coach John Henry. “We played well in the second half and blew it open. Kevion Blaylock once again showed he is the best player in the conference.”

Next Up: William Penn added an extra game to its schedule, facing #18 Bethel (Kan.) for the first time since 2015. The teams will face off Friday in Oskaloosa for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.

Posted by on Feb 18 2021. Filed under College Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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