Men win PSAC championship, clinch NCAA tournament berth
IUP downs SRU 52-46 to claim ninth PSAC title, earn third seed in big dance
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 11:03
The Crimson Hawks raised the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championship trophy for the third time in four years with a 52-46 win over Slippery Rock Saturday.
“Early in the year, our goal wasn’t to win the regular season championship or the conference tournament championship,” Head Coach Joe Lombardi said. “It was just to grow as a team, to improve, to get better and get closer together as a unit. Those are championship characteristics and the culture championship programs have. These guys bought into it 100 percent with their work ethic.
“We didn’t have to fight with them to get them in the gym to do extra work. They had a passion for it and a love for the game, and sometimes a love for the game can carry you over. They were just committed to each other and unselfish, and sometimes you just catch a little magic and the whole rises up a little bit more than the parts might be.”
Indiana University of Pennsylvania completed its championship run in front of a home crowd of 2,652 and put on a show that didn’t disappoint. Both teams scratched and clawed their way to every basket in an exciting game between two heavyweights.
The first half was fast-paced, but low-scoring as both teams struggled offensively. IUP shot 29.6 percent from the field, 38.5 from three-point range and 25 percent on free throws. Slippery Rock scored only 16 points and shot 20 percent from the field and three-point range. The Crimson Hawks went into the locker room with a six-point, 22-16, advantage.
Things heated up in the second half as the Crimson Hawks made nearly every shot they took. IUP went on a 17-6 run for a 17-point, 39-22, lead with 11:08 left to play. The Crimson Hawks would find out, though, that no lead was safe. The Rock answered immediately with a run of their own and came roaring back to cut IUP’s lead to just four points with 2:27 left on the clock.
Totally unfazed by Slippery Rock’s comeback, the Crimson Hawks played as champions should and finished off their opponent. IUP went back up by nine off a layup and a free throw by Josh Wiegand followed by a layup by Scooter Renkin. The Rock got back within four, but it was too late as a couple of free throws by Anthony Wells put the nail in the coffin.
And the Crimson Hawks became
the 2013 PSAC champions.
Wiegand turned it on in the second half, shooting a perfect 5-5 on from the line and scoring 13 of his team-high 15 points. Mathis Keita scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds while Wells finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
“It feels amazing,” Wiegand said. “This is what we’ve been working for. The last two years, this is exactly what I wanted, for me, for everybody.”
The Crimson Hawks’ shooting improved greatly in the second half. They shot 44 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from three-point range and 58.3 percent from the line. IUP won the rebound battle by just one, 37-36. They also had good ball control, turning it over only eight times. The game saw seven lead changes, but no ties.
“We got out there and competed against their size, their length and their strength,” Lombardi said. “And we outrebounded them, too, and they’re one of the leading rebounding teams in the country. To be able to do that is a credit to these guys and the heart they played with. They just found a way all year long, and it’s been a lot of different ways. Last night was with offense, tonight was with defense.”
Keita was named the PSAC Tournament Most Valuable Player. He finished the tournament with 59 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists.