IUP wins second PSAC title in a row
Crimson Hawks punch ticket to NCAA tournament
INDIANA, Pa. -- Darryl Webb scored 24 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to earn MVP honors, leading IUP to an 82-75 victory against Slippery Rock and its second consecutive PSAC tournament championship.
The Crimson Hawks earned an automatic berth to the NCAA Atlantic Region tournament with their 11th straight win and improved to 24-5 on the season. IUP became the first PSAC men’s basketball team to repeat as conference champions since Edinboro in 2005 and 2006 and won its seventh tournament title overall.
Slippery Rock is 21-10 and will have to wait until Sunday night to find out if a trip to the PSAC final was good enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Rock lost in the championship game for the sixth time since winning their only PSAC title in 1963.
The 64-team NCAA tournament field and pairings will be announced at 10 p.m., Sunday night. Undefeated West Liberty, the WVIAC champion, will likely be the host school for the Atlantic Regional.
IUP is the defending Atlantic Region champion and won three regional games and two at the Elite Eight last year to advance to the national championship game for the first time in school history.
Webb had totals of 51 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in the two Final Four games to earn the MVP award. The senior forward hit 15 of 17 free throws, leading an IUP parade to the charity stripe line that resulted in PSAC tournament records of 49 makes and 62 attempts. Webb’s 15 free throws are the third most makes in a tournament game.
Ashton Smith added 18 points and three assists, Willi Estrella tallied 13 points and Kevin Stewart contributed 12 to give the Crimson Hawks four players in double figures. Slippery Rock outscored IUP from the field 56-33 and held a 35-30 rebounding edge but committed 38 personal fouls and was just 4 of 20 from 3-point distance.
Maron Brown paced Slippery Rock with 25 points and six rebounds, Jabril Bailey had 19 points and Tommy Kelly finished with 12.
IUP trailed only once when a layup by Brown gave the Rock a 2-1 lead. A 3-pointer by Stewart with 15:53 left in the first half gave the Crimson Hawks a 7-4 lead which they would never relinquish. It was only a two-point game until Webb scored six points in an 8-2 run over the final 2:31 to put IUP in front 35-25 at the break.
A foul on Joe Rocco and a technical foul against Stewart allowed Slippery Rock to hit four free throws with 14:22 left in the game, and another free throw by Joe Vines made it 44-39 at the 13:54 mark. Webb responded with a tip-in while being fouled, and his three-point play pushed the lead back up to eight, and the Rock never got their deficit below six the rest of the way.
A jumper by Smith got the lead up to 73-60 with 4:38 left, and the Crimson Hawks made 9 of 11 free throws the rest of the way to prevent Slippery Rock from attempting a late comeback.
IUP had a record of 15-1 at Memorial Field House this season, the last full year the team will play in the building before moving into the Kovalchick Complex next year. The Crimson Hawks finished their fulltime play at the field house with 47 wins in 50 games over the past three years.