INDIANA – Defending PSAC champion Indiana still has California’s number.
Tuesday it added up to a hard-earned 73-68 victory for the Crimson Hawks over the Vulcans at the Memorial Field House in the PSAC quarterfinals.
The victory was the sixth straight for Indiana (22-5) over California (15-12).
The Vulcans battled back from a 12 point deficit in the first half to take a 58-57 lead with 3:19 remaining when C.J. Townes hit two free throws.
Making four of six free throws, IUP had a 61-58 lead with 1:45 to go before California’s Steve Swiech hit two free throws a second later to trim the margin to 61-60.
The Crimson Hawks’ Ashton Smith, who finished with a game-high 24 points, hit a 3-pointer with 1:25 left before Smith sank two free throws to give IUP a 66-60 lead with 55 seconds left.
Willie Estrella’s free throw gave IUP a seven point cushion with 39 seconds remaining before two free throws by Cal’s Chad Tipton and a four-point play by Joe Berenato, who was fouled making a trey with 24 seconds left, sliced the deficit to 68-66.
IUP’s Julian Sanders upped the lead to 71-66 with 13 seconds left after hitting three of four free throws.
Th Vulcans were down 71-68 after Steve Swiech made a layup with seven seconds left before Darryl Webb’s two free throws with six seconds remaining sealed the win.
Webb backed Smith with 16 points including 10 of 11 at the foul line.
Swiech and Rashawd Hatten, who fouled out, both had 13 points for the Vulcans followed by Townes and Tipton with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Smith and Scooter Renkin both hit four of five 3-pointers for IUP while Cal was four of 16 from 3-point range.
IUP hit 28 of 36 free throws compared to 16 of 20 for the Vulcans.
IUP will host the PSAC Final Four Friday, facing East Stroudsburg at 7:30 p.m. after Slippery Rock plays Cheyney at 5:30 p.m.
In the other quarterfinal games, SlipperyRock upset Mercyhurst, 51-45; Cheyney edged Mansfield, 77-75, when former Vulcan Sharif Bray hit two free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining and East Stroudsburg downed Kutztown, 83-70.