WHO: No. 18 Evangel @ No. 13 William Penn
WHEN: Saturday, January 14th @ 2pm
WHERE: Penn Gymnasium – Oskaloosa, IA
Our NAIA Game of the Week this week features the top two teams in the Heart of America Conference Standings. William Penn, with the win, could take a big two game lead heading into the back part of the conference schedule. Evangel, with a win, would take over 1st place in the Heart standings. This is the only time these two teams will face each other this season, so it’s a BIG game when you are talking about winning a Heart of America Conference Championship. Something that William Penn has won three years in a row and five of the past 6 titles, since joining the Heart of America Conference. For Evangel, this is their final year in the Heart of America, as they will pack up and head to the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference next season. Bert Capel has done a great job with the Valor the past two seasons. If he wants to leave the Heart with a regular season title, they are going to have to make the 6-hour drive and get a win in one of the toughest places to get a road win at in the NAIA. Penn Gymnasium will host the Toilet Paper game next week, but before the gym is covered in TP, the Statesmen will try to add a Top 25 win to their resume!
Josh Pritchett 6’4 Sr.
Chanze Cruesoe 6’1 Jr.
Both of these game changers are serious contenders for the Heart Player of the Year this season. Both can really fill up the stat sheet, both are great team leaders, and both are so good at making plays for others as much as they are able to take over a game themselves. Cruesoe is one of the best two-way players in the country. He often guards the opponent’s best player. Offensively, he isn’t Penn’s top scorer, but he is a gifted passer, who leads the Penn break and creates for others. He loves the mid-range game but is also so good at attacking the rim. Pritchett does lead his team in scoring and is on a terror right now. Over his past five games he has gone for 26, 30, 28, 15 and 28. He has shot the 3-ball at 50% or higher in four-straight games as well. Normally, most teams try to slow the tempo down on the Statesmen, but William Penn has been much better in those type of games this season and Evangel has played up-tempo more this season. Should be a really fun game inside one of the loudest gyms in the NAIA!
5 Edriel Martinborough 5’11 5Y – 9.2ppg/3.6rpg/2.8apg
0 Manrique Alvarado 5’11 Jr – 9.8ppg/2.8apg
3 Josh Pritchett 6’4 Sr -19.2ppg/3.3rpg/3.4apg
20 Stephen Salvi 6’4 Jr – 9.5ppg/5.4rpg
21 Bryce Hunt 6’7 Jr – 8ppg/4.2rpg
5 Chanze Cruesoe 6’1 Jr – 13.5ppg/5.1rpg/6.3apg
3 Malik Edwards 6’2 So – 17.4ppg/3.2rpg/2apg
20 CJ Washington 6’4 Jr – 6ppg/2.3rpg/2.3apg
11 Muneer Newton 6’5 So – 9.1ppg/7rpg
23 Eddie Daley 6’11 5Y – 11.2ppg/9.4rpg
We have mentioned it before, but this is a Valor team that is coming off a really good year last season, before going ice cold in the opening round of the National Championships. A game in which they started 0-19 from the 3-pt line before losing on a last second shot. This season, the Valor is back to competing for a Heart Title and if they can steal a win in this one they will control their own fate for the rest of the season. This is a pretty veteran group, with mostly upper classman being their main contributors. A group, who has also played a lot together. They have added Bryce Hunt, who gives them another gear they haven’t had the past few seasons. While they aren’t the biggest team in the NAIA, this is a tough and scrappy bunch and when they are hitting shots they can beat anyone. They already have a win over No. 2 Oklahoma Wesleyan. They will look to add another big win to their resume with a tough road win over the 13th ranked Statesmen.
The Statesmen come into this game as winners of 10-straight contests. With a lot of turnover from last season, it took a bit for them to figure some things out, but John Henry and staff are in a very familiar position as they currently lead the Heart of America. This year’s team is led in scoring by Sophomore Malik Edwards, who already has seven games of 20+ on the season. The Statesmen Sophomores are all having a big year. Fellow starter Muneer Newton is coming off of a 18pt, 13reb double-double while Sophomores Rodrigo Soares and DJ Purnell, who started playing at semester, are both good contributors off the bench. WPU does have two Seniors, Eddie Daley and James Pennington, who are both having good years as well. We have talked about Cruesoe already, but he is the engine that makes this team go. A team that is averaging 92ppg as a team and have, as of late, gotten back to dominating the glass, like the good Penn teams of the past have done. If Penn is going to win yet another Heart Title, they have to continue to protect Penn Gymnasium. There is still some time left in conference play, but getting a two-game lead in the Heart, headed down the stretch will be key for the Statesmen as they will finish conference play with three straight road games.