VUU succumbs to third-ranked IUP 60-45
Fred Jeter | 3/16/2023, 6 p.m.
The curtain fell on Virginia Union University’s outstanding basketball season late Sunday night in Indiana, Pa.
In one of the most difficult matchups possible, the Panthers fell to host Indi- ana University of Pennsylvania, 60-45, in the semifinals of the NCAA Atlantic Regional.
IUP led by just 30-27 at halftime. Then a 23-0 run by the host Crimson Hawks early in the second half spelled the end for the visitors.
IUP, ranked third nationally, improved to 32-1 and 16-0 on its home court. Coach Jay Butler’s cold-shooting Panthers (25 percent) finished 24-8.
The night before, VUU defeated Fairmont State, W.Va., 66-64, for its first NCAA win since 2007, when Coach Dave Robbins’ teams defeated Lander, S.C., and Clayton State, Ga.
The Panthers suffered their worst shooting night of the season vs. IUP. CIAA Player of Year Robert Osborne was 3-for-17 from the floor and managed just seven points. By contrast “The Wizard of Os” hit 51 percent on the season and averaged 20.2 points.
In two powerful seasons as a Panther, Osborne tallied 1,046 points and will be greatly missed.
Nothing was falling at IUP. Standout guard Keleaf Tate was 1-for-13. Tahj Harding led VUU with 10 points.
IUP was to play West Liberty, W.Va., Tuesday night for the Region crown and the right to advance to the NCAA Elite Eight.
The 2023-24 VUU lineup will look much different from this year’s unit. Coach Butler and his veteran staff will be hot on the recruiting trail.
Seniors included Osborne, Tate, Devon Sims, Khalil Diggins-Williams and Raemaad Wright.
From Suffolk, Wright’s rebounding has been essential to VUU going 47-15 the past two seasons.
Wright had 12 rebounds in the loss to IUP and 16 against Fairmont. He was a two-time CIAA rebounding leader.