Defense lifts Fighting Scots over Cal, earn fourth straight win

Contributed Photo: Edinboro Sports Information
Led by leading PSAC scorer, Henri Wade-Chatman (above right), the Scots have won four straight games, setting up a perfect conference postseason run in the final games.
EUP team claim its fourth victory

By Mike Fenner
Staff Writer/Spectator

CALIFORNIA, Pa. – The Fighting Scots (11-9, 8-8 PSAC) defeated the California University of Pennsylvania Vulcans (12-9, 8-8) to claim its fourth conference victory in a row, while recording its second straight road win overall in a 68-59 defensive battle. It was their first road triumph against the Vulcans since the 2011-12 season at the Convocation Center on Saturday night.

“They need to be able to see the fruits of their labor,” second year head coach Pat Cleary said.  “Now we’re able to go on the road and really get proof of what we’re really doing is effective for us. I think it just springboards these guys for everything they need to do moving forward.”

Pulling down eight rebounds on the night, senior forward Casey Baker scored all six of his points in a row in a decisive 6-2 run in the final minute to shut the door on a Cal comeback after Edinboro had led by as many as 16 points, aiding Edinboro in closing out California to secure a season split with the Vulcans.

“We all came together and started playing team defense, sharing the ball. Everybody’s playing great right now,” a jubilant Baker said. “Definitely the team defense; we all bought in.”

Occupying the bottom spot in the standings of a nine team PSAC west just two weeks ago, Edinboro’s four game winning streak has lifted them to a tie for fifth place in the division with the Vulcans. The Scots are outscoring opponents 76.2 to 58.5 in the midst of its recent resurgence.

“It was huge for us that they were all conference wins,” Cleary said. “In a league as brutal as ours, you need every win that you can get. I think that we’re getting it going at the right time.”

The Vulcans were limited to 19-56 (33.9 percent) shooting from the floor, 4-21 (19 percent) from three point range and just five assists in the grindit-out victory. The Scots took a 28-18 advantage in points in the paint, while capitalizing with 14 second chance points.

Defense has become a calling card for Edinboro this season as the Scots rank fourth in the conference in points per game allowed (65.4) compared to allowing nearly 10 more points per contest (75.3) against opponents on average a season ago.

“I believe that’s all part of the confidence too,” Cleary said. “They know if they do it the right way, if they just stick to what we’re trying to do in practice that it’s going to work for them. They haven’t been taking shortcuts, we haven’t been hoping. We’ve been going out and doing it and that’s just awesome for us.”

Junior guard Henri Wade-Chatman, who has been kept under 10 points on only one occasion this season, paced the Scots with 15 points. Redshirt freshman guard Jaymon Mason added 13 points and dished out four assists in the win.

“Bought into the system, really stepping up our defensive assignments and running in transition,” Wade-Chatman said in terms of the biggest areas of improvement.

Coming off a career best 17 points in the Scots’ 77-54 home win over Seton Hill prior to the matchup with Cal, redshirt junior guard Will Marrow embarked on an 11 point outing as the Cleveland, Ohio native shot 5-11 from the floor and added five rebounds.

Marrow, who is typically viewed as one of Edinboro’s best defensive players, had averaged 6.2 points per contest prior to the consecutive double-digit outings against the Griffins and Vulcans.  His 11 points against Cal marked his fourth double-figure scoring game of the season as well as his fourth highest scoring effort on the year.

“We need him to stay with it defensively, because I believe Will Marrow can be the premier defensive player on the perimeter in this league if he just keeps going and playing within himself. He’s just huge for us,” Cleary said.

Junior center Tommy Scales fell just shy of a double-double effort as the first year Scot tallied nine points and pulled down eight boards in just 17 minutes off the bench.

Edinboro’s 11-9 record has already exceeded the Scots’ 10 win total from a year ago and with the win, the Scots have now tripled their win total in road games from 2013-14 (3-7 away). The Scots will next face the Mercyhurst Lakers at the Mercyhurst Athletics Center in Erie on Saturday, Feb. 7 before hosting Slippery Rock on Feb. 11 at McComb Fieldhouse at 5:30 p.m.

Mike Fenner is a staff writer for the Spectator. He can be reached by sports.specator@gmail.com.