CEDAR RAPIDS – The William Penn men’s basketball team began the new year with a victory over the Mount Mercy Mustangs by a score of 71-66.
The Statesmen improve to 13-1 overall and 5-1 in Heart of America Athletic Conference play, while the Mustangs drop to 10-6 overall and 3-3 in the Heart.
Both teams opened up slow out of the gates, as it took just under two minutes for Q Cager (Sr., Hopkinsville, Ky., Wellness and Recreation)to get William Penn on the board. It took almost a minute and a half for the next Statesmen bucket, and by the time Kevion Blaylock (Sr., Houston, Texas, Information Technology) had scored, Mount Mercy held an 8-4 lead.
Malik Edwards (Fr., Drexel Hill, Pa., Business Management) checked into the game just past the five minute mark and promptly drained a triple, and Chanze Cruesoe (So., St. Louis, Mo., Business Management) followed with a basket. Unfortunately, the Statesmen had problems with sustaining their scoring early on, and the Mustangs jumped out to a 19-11 lead.
Muneer Newton (Fr., Philadelphia, Pa., Business Management) responded immediately to stop the Mount Mercy scoring run, and Blaylock added another basket to cut the lead to four. Cruesoe went on his own five point run to give William Penn the lead back. After the hosts tied the game once again, Karmari Newman (Sr., Detroit, Mich., Digital Communication) added five points in 20 seconds to take the lead right back.
William Penn did not trail again in the first half, extending the advantage to seven as the game entered halftime with the score at 34-27. The Statesmen shot a paltry 37.5% from the floor in the opening stanza, but held the Mustangs to a 35.1% mark, including a 9.1% clip from beyond the arc.
Blaylock got the second half scoring started on the opening possession, then added two more points from the charity stripe on the next trip down the court. The Mustangs cut the lead down to three, but Josh Watkins (Sr., Chicago, Ill., Sports Management) made it a two possession game again with a three, but Mount Mercy continued to battle back, eventually recapturing a two-point lead.
Blaylock and Cruesoe each went on four point stretches to give the navy and gold the lead back, but the Mustangs rallied again to take a one point lead with 4:28 remaining. They could not get shots to fall down the stretch, however, as baskets from Blaylock, Cruesoe, and Cager gave the Statesmen a lead they would not relinquish as they closed out their first victory of 2022.
Blaylock led the Statesmen with 16 points and also added eight rebounds. Cruesoe and Newman joined him in double digits with 14 and 10, respectively. Cruesoe had eight rebounds as well, while Newman chipped in four steals.
Cager and Reyhan Cobb (Jr., Atlanta, Ga., Sociology) each added seven points. Cager had five boards, while Cobb tied for the team lead with eight.
What’s Next: For the first time in 2022, the Statesmen will be in Penn Gymnasium on Saturday, January 6 against the Missouri Valley Vikings. The men’s portion of the doubleheader is slated to begin at 4 p.m.