EVANSVILLE, Ind. — For the first time since 1981, Florida Southern cut down the nets Saturday afternoon at the Ford Center as the top-ranked Moccasins concluded a 36-1 season by collecting a 77-62 win against Indiana (Pa.) in the 2015 NCAA Division II National Championship game.
Saturday’s national championship was the first for the men’s basketball team since the 1981 team defeated Mount St.
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“What an unbelievable feeling for our basketball team, our seniors, our school and our community,” Moccasin head coach Linc Darner said following his team’s 25th consecutive victory. “Our five senior starters really deserved this for all the hard work they’ve put in on their own since losing in the first round a year ago. I’m so proud of them, but the sad thing is I don’t get to coach them anymore.
“The great thing is they went out on top and they deserve all the credit.”
Saturday’s national championship game was the final contest for FSC’s six seniors, five of which started all 37 games during the championship season. The six seniors this season are forward Stephen Battle, guard Kevin Capers, forward Bubby Johnson, guard Tyler Kelly, guard Tyler Logan and forward Daniel Turner.
“We’ve got a great group of guys that represent Florida Southern not only on the court, but off the court and I can’t be prouder to be their coach and I’m going to miss them,” said Darner, who improved to 218-72 in his ninth season at the helm of the Moccasin program.
The Mocs win was keyed by a strong defensive effort as the Mocs held IUP to a season-low 31.1 percent shooting from the field and 28 percent from the 3-point line. In addition, they limited IUP’s top two scorers, Devante Chance and Shawn Dyer, to a combined 8-for-19 effort from the field and 6-for-19 from the 3-point line.
“We came out and played really well. We did a great job guarding their guards,” the Mocs coach added. “Their three guards went a combined 10-for-37 from the field and I thought that was the big difference in the game. We’ve guarded the 3-point line all season and once again today we held them to just 8-for-29 from long distance.”
While IUP’s offense struggled shooting the ball, FSC’s offense shot 51 percent from the field and 52 percent from the 3-point line, including hitting its first six 3-pointers and tied a Division II championship game record with 13 made treys. The Mocs finished the game 13-for-25 from the 3-point line.
“We had trouble getting going on offense today and the guys kept battling, but a lot of the credit goes to Florida Southern,” IUP head coach Joe Lombardi said. “They made some really good shots. The rim got bigger for them and they grew in confidence and we had to play on our heels the rest of the night.”
The Mocs were paced offensively once again by Capers as the two-time All-American closed out his career by scoring 24 points to finish his career with 2,319 career points and closed the year by scoring in double figures in 24 consecutive games. In his career, Capers, who was named the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, scored at least one point in all 131 games he played, including 109 career double-digit games and 52 career games of scoring 20 or more points.
Along with Capers, junior guard Dylan Travis finished with 18 points to also earn a spot on the Division II National Championship All-Tournament Team. Travis scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half.
The other two double-digit scorers for the Mocs were Johnson (11 points and eight boards) and Battle (10 points, six boards and four assists) in his final collegiate game.
IUP closed out the season with a 31-7 record. It was paced offensively by Chance, who had 17 points and added eight boards and five assists. In addition to Chance, Dyer scored 16 points and had eight boards in the loss, while Daddy Ugbede added 12 points.
The other members of the All-Tournament Team were Chance, Dyer and Bellarmine forward Jake Thelen.
The Mocs were outrebounded 42-30 but forced the Crimson Hawks into 12 turnovers that led to 19 points.
“We focused on our game plan today really well,” Johnson said. “We did what we wanted to do going into the game and we wanted to trap some ball screens. We just bought into what coach was telling us and that’s been the key all year.”