By Ronald Hanaki
ESU’s Men’s Basketball team defeated the Cheyney University Wolves 95-74 at Cheyney University’s Cope Hall last Monday night.
It was ESU’s fourteenth conference win. The Warriors have won three straight games and six out of their last seven games.
Balanced scoring has paced ESU all season, and this game was no different. Redshirt junior forward Josh Williams was the high-scoring man for ESU with 14 points.
He was followed by junior guard Nick Giordano with 13 points. Sophomore forward Kobi Nwandu and redshirt junior guard Jakwan Jones had 12 points each. Redshirt-senior forward Steve Harris and senior forward Ralik Wise both scored 11 points for the Warriors.
Cheyney’s cheerleaders looked resplendent in their sequin uniforms and whipped the home fans into a frenzy. But with only two wins on the season, Cheyney was clearly playing David to ESU’s Goliath.
Despite the mismatch on paper, this game was actually very competitive in the first half. The Warriors only held a one-point lead after seven minutes of gameplay.
With the score 19-18 ESU, the Warriors went on a 12-3 run and staked themselves out to a 10-point lead.
But the Wolves were game and clawed back with an 11-4 run of their own.
With 6:26 left in the first half, ESU led 35-32. But that was the last time the game was competitive as the Warriors outscored the Wolves 7-3 over the next three minutes to push their lead back up to 10 points.
The Warriors surged to a 54-35 lead at halftime, and the game was not competitive after that.
The big reason for ESU’s success in the first half was because the Warriors seized control of the tempo early and forced the Wolves into foul trouble. The upshot was that the Warriors were in the bonus early. That amounted to ESU having a 28-7 advantage in free throws attempts over Cheyney in the first half alone.
Like most teams, Cheyney struggled to deal with ESU’s aggressive press defense. The Warriors forced the Wolves into committing 28 turnovers to only 18 for ESU for an overall plus 10 turnover differential.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, it was not all roses. Three minutes into the second half, a crossover dribble by junior guard Kitt Najee Walls gave him enough space for a pull up jump shot just inside of the three-point arc.
When Walls came down, it looked like his right leg or foot might have come into contact with a Cheyney player. Regardless, Walls landed awkwardly on his right foot, and he had to leave the court shortly thereafter. Walls was later seen on crutches with an ice pack wrapped around his right knee.
Jakwan Jones and Walls have been splitting the point guard duties this season. But in the absence of Walls, freshman point guard Troy Jones saw extended playing time and finished with one point and three assists in 11 minutes of playing time.
ESU is tied with Shippensburg for second place in the PSAC East. The two teams are just half-a-game behind PSAC East-leading West Chester in the loss column.
The Warriors (17-5, 14-4) will host the Golden Rams (19-4, 15-4) this Saturday afternoon at Koehler Fieldhouse.
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