Wade Steinlage, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications
OSKALOOSA – The front half of a home-and-home for Statesmen men’s basketball against Mount Mercy this week was an offensive showcase for both sides. While the Mustangs ran with the Statesmen for the first few minutes, they could not sustain their success. Controlling the rebound game and putting up 60-plus points in each half, William Penn ran off with a 124-94 victory on Monday night. The Statesmen are now 9-0 and 7-0 in Heart of America Athletic Conference play.
The rare Monday night contest started with the Mustangs scoring the first six points. Karmari Newman (Sr., Detroit, Mich., Digital Communication) finally got WPU on the board as he sliced through the defense to put in a short jumper. Nathan Gehring (Sr., Waukee, Iowa) cut the lead down to two with a little floater that fell. Kevion Blaylock (Sr., Houston, Texas, Information Technology) gave the Statesmen the lead three-minutes in with a put back. The run would continue as William Penn rattled off 10 unanswered in two minutes.
With four minutes in the books, the Mustangs found their shooting stroke and the game was off to the races as the points pilled up. With 14:29 on the clock, a three for the visitors knotted the game at 20. Q Cager (Sr., Hopkinsville, Ky., Wellness & Recreation) got a nice feed from Eddie Daley (Sr., DeWitt, Mich., Business Management) and laid the ball in to put WPU ahead 22-20. He then netted a three the next time down the court to increase the lead to five.
Just when the navy and gold seemed to figure things out, the Mustangs would nail a couple deep shots to keep a manageable deficit. WPU led by three with 12:15 to go before Brandon Faison (Sr., Charlotte, N.C., Sports Management) let fly from downtown and found nothing but net. After a field goal from Ahmad Pender (Sr., Chicago, Ill, Wellness & Recreation), the lead was pushed to eight. The Mustangs were able to keep the lead around that amount until there were six minutes to go.
Pender continued to keep the momentum going as he tapped home a ball hanging near the rim. Chanze Cruesoe (So., St. Louis, Mo., Business Management) followed that up wby picking the pocket of a Mustang player and scooted to the other end to finish if off with a layup. Up 46-35, the Statesmen would not let their lead fall below 10 the rest of the game.
With 4:37 to go, Blaylock collected a put-back on a shot by Cager, and the navy and gold went off on a huge run from there. The squad outscored MMU 13-2 over the final minutes of the first half to take a commanding 61-37 lead into the locker-room. WPU shot 55% from the field, 54% from deep and made 27 rebounds compared to 11 for the Mustangs.
The second half saw the Statesmen continue to roll as they increased the lead to 30 and held it around there for the duration of the second frame. Blaylock got the scoring started 30 seconds in off an apt feed by Cager. Blaylock made seven of the team’s first nine points in the half, with Gehring adding the other two. From there, the tone was set and both units for the Statesmen delivered successful basketball, scoring 63 second-half points to win 124-94.
Credit to the Mustangs, as they came close to their season scoring average to finish with some high marks, led by Keishun Thomas, who put up 31 points, nailing nine three-point shots on the night.
He could not do it alone though, and William Penn had every player score in the game. Blaylock finished just shy of a double-double, as he scored 23 points to go with nine rebounds. He was deadly from beyond the arc, going 3-4, and made 8 of 9 free-throws. While his star was bright, it was a huge night for Pender, who belted out 20 points and 10 rebounds. He threw down a couple massive dunks, including a great feed off an inbounds play from Cruesoe midway through the second. He also hammered down one on a fast break to conclude the scoring for the game.
Newman had 16 points as he shot 50% on the night. Gehring had a respectable 10 points and seven rebounds while Daley had 10 and six. Cager was everywhere again for the Statesmen, as he made five assists, two rebounds, and 17 points. He made two very deep three-point shots on the night and was 7-9 overall from the field.
WPU conquered the rebound category 54-24. The lineup alone had 22 offensive rebounds compared to 24 total boards (7 O – 17 D) for the Mustangs. The team also shot 57% from the floor, 37% form deep, and was 66% from the stripe. They forced the Mustangs into 14 turnovers, seven off of steals. Mount Mercy had no answer for the driving ability of the Statesmen, who scored 72 of their 124 points in the paint, 31 off second chances.
“Ahmad would start for many teams in our league and would probably be an all-conference selection multiple times,” said Head Coach John Henry. “He accepts and thrives in his role here at Penn. He is a legend in this program and he’s not even done yet.”
“It is a bit odd to play Mount Mercy again in our next game, but then again, what isn’t odd about everything in 2020.”
The Statesmen will travel to Cedar Rapids to face said Mustangs again on December 10 at 7:30 p.m.