Point Park women surge past IU East with big second half, win 103-79
Feb. 8, 2015
Alexa Xenakis had 25 points to come within one of her career high. Photo by Sam Robison.
By Zachary Weiss
RICHMOND, Ind. – The Point Park University women’s basketball team put up 100 points for the fourth time this season and defeated IU East, 103-79, in a KIAC game on Sunday.
The Pioneers (21-3, 8-2 KIAC) put together a dominating second half as they outscored the Red Wolves (16-11, 6-5 KIAC), 63-31, the final 20 minutes. That erased an eight-point deficit that found Point Park trailing, 48-40, after a frustrating first half.
Point Park’s 103 points were the most it’s ever scored in a KIAC game. And the 63 points in the second half were the most the Pioneers have ever put up on a KIAC opponent in a single half.
Leading the way for the Pioneers was sophomore guard Kelly Johnson who scored 31 points on 13 for 20 shooting, had 10 assists, grabbed eight rebounds and added seven steals.
Junior guard Alexa Xenakis set a season-high with 25 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field. Xenakis’s 25 points are one off her career high which was set Jan. 11, 2014 in a 94-83 victory at Alice Lloyd.
Junior forward Ja’Nia McPhatter scored 17 points while guard Celina DiPietro, who started her first game of the season, added nine points of her own.
Forward Keragan Niehoff’s double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds led the way for IU East, which is in its first year of women’s basketball. Da’Sha Boyd had 12 points in 16 minutes off the bench, and leading scorer Tia King was held to 10 points on 5 for 18 shooting from the field.
The Red Wolves frustrated Point Park in the first half shooting 43.5 percent from the field. Coming into the game, IU East ranked second in the country in total scoring offense and asserted that offense to a 16-3 advantage in points off turnovers, 8-2 edge in fast break points and 14-8 lead in in bench points the first half.
The Pioneers were called for 16 personal fouls in the first half with six players each drawing multiple fouls. IU East took advantage in making 18 of 20 free throws the first 20 minutes. IU East was whistled for just six fouls the first half, and Point Park shot just two free throws, making both in its only trip to the foul line.
Things turned around in a big way for Point Park as it came out of the halftime locker room on a 32-6 for a lead of 72-54 with 11:41 remaining. Leading the second-half charge were Johnson with 17 points, Xenakis with 15 and McPhatter with 12 after halftime.
“We started going inside in the second half,” said Grenek of the turnaround. “We were living and dying by the jump shot, and we’ve really been doing that all season. We had a height advantage on IU East, and we needed to take advantage of it. And I think Ja’Nia, Carly Forse, Natasha Moss and even Kelly Johnson were able to post up, and the guards were looking inside. We can’t just come down and fling a 15-footer versus a one-on-four every single time because if you’re struggling shooting the ball, you have to find other ways to score.”
In total, the Pioneers scored 60 points in the paint and outscored IU East by 24 in that statistic. A big difference was McPhatter, who shook off several defenders to establish a post presence to grab rebounds and finish shots.
“It’s taken a while because she’s coming off injury, but it’s coming back,” Grenek said of McPhatter. “We talked yesterday, and she told me she was frustrated that her jumper wasn’t going down. I told her that she wasn’t a jump shooter until this year and you honed that part your game after your injury. Now that she’s pretty much healed up, I told her to go back to the old way and start attacking the rim because no one can stop her.”
Point Park’s run visibly frustrated the Red Wolves, who were discouraged when they were unable to make baskets in an effort to counter the Pioneer offensive attack. Not only was it a great offensive half for Point Park, it was also strong defensively holding IU East to 30-percent field goals and 18 percent (2 for 11) from 3-point range.
Offensively, the Pioneers shot 72.7 percent from the field in the second half, which is the highest percentage in a half under Grenek. Point Park also ended up winning the fast break scoring by a 26-12 margin.
The Pioneers came into the week ranked in the ‘others receiving votes’ section of the NAIA Division II Top 25 Poll at No. 27 overall. No. 25 Madonna (Mich.) beat No. 20 Sienna Heights 71-59, however, it lost to receiving votes Cornerstone, 89-66. St. Thomas (Fla.), which was one spot ahead of Point Park, had a perfect 3-0 week defeating Warner (Fla.), 65-46, Northwood (Fla.), 64-52, and Ave Maria (Fla.), 70-50.
Point Park next will face Rio Grande (20-6, 9-1 KIAC) at home Tuesday at 5:30. Rio Grande currently holds a one-game lead over Point Park in the KIAC North division. The RedStorm are on an 11-game winning streak with their last loss coming to the Pioneers, 74-70, on Jan. 7 at home. Tuesday’s game has important implications as the winner will have an inside track to winning the KIAC regular season title and earning an automatic berth into the NAIA Division II national tournament.
“They are probably playing the best basketball out of anybody in our conference right now,” said Grenek. “They are well coached, have a great point guard, have good size and are a historic program, so we have our work cut out for us. Tuesday will be a huge challenge for us. That’s what makes college athletics fun. You want to be in a great game like Tuesday night where there is a lot on the line. It makes life fun and that’s what makes sports fun. I know we will be up to the challenge, and I know Rio’s going to be up for the challenge. Win or lose, if you do your best on either side, you’re going to be looking at two great basketball teams battling it out on Tuesday.”
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