By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For the first time since 2003, the West Chester University men’s basketball team is getting ready for an appearance in the Division II NCAA Tournament.
The Golden Rams bring a 20-9 record into their first round match-up with Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Saturday in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
“Obviously, last weekend was a disappointing loss against East Stroudsburg in the (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference) championship,” West Chester head coach Damien Blair tells KYW Newsradio. “But the kids are really looking forward to playing IUP on Saturday. Definitely an exciting time for the program.”
The Golden Rams went 11-5 in the PSAC during the regular season and they had to overcome a key injury as second leading scorer Eddie Mitchell (hand) went down halfway through the season. Blair says their success is really a team effort.
“Shannon (Givens) is our point guard,” Blair says. “He has been doing a phenomenal job of getting us into all our offensive and defensive sets. He’s been an unbelievable leader. (Senior guard) Troy Hockaday is our leading scorer (16.8 ppg), one of our better defenders. (Junior forward) Corey Blake was a second-team all league selection. It’s been a group production. There’s been a ton of guys that have come off the bench and played some big minutes.”
West Chester keeps it local. Givens is a product of Fels High School in Philadelphia, Hockaday is a LaSalle College High School product., while Blake went to Rustin High School in West Chester.
IUP brings a 23-4 record into the tournament. While both schools are in the PSAC, they did not play during the regular season. The Crimson Hawks have won 6 of the last 7 meetings against the Golden Rams.
West Chester has actually never won an NCAA Tournament game (0-7 all-time). Blair says they know what they have to do to change that.
“We’ve got to play hard every possession,” Blair says. “On the offensive end, we’ve got to set screens, make sure that we do a great job executing our offense. Try to get some extra points by getting offensive rebounds. It’s all the little things. At this point of the season, a lot of teams have a tendency to forget about doing the little things, if we can do that (the little things) I think we put ourselves in a great position to win.”
West Chester and IUP will tip-off at noon on Saturday. The winner of this game plays the winner of West Liberty and Glenville State on Sunday.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.