In a rematch of last year’s Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship title game, Indiana University of Pennsylvania could not have chosen a better song to play during pregame warm-ups.
The Drake hit, “Trophies”, rang through the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, getting players and fans excited. It also served as a subtle reminder of which team was victorious in the PSAC title game last year.
On Saturday, though, Slippery Rock was the better team through stretches of the game and led by nine with 13:47 to play.
However, some timely plays by Marcel Souberbielle (senior, communications media), Cornell Yarde (freshman, computer science) and Brandon Norfleet (sophomore, undeclared) brought the Crimson Hawks back, much to the delight of 3,126 fans who saw the Crimson Hawks beat Slippery Rock 66-64 for the Rock’s 24th consecutive loss in Indiana.
“The crowd was terrific,” head coach Joe Lombardi said. “They were the sixth man. We don’t win tonight without the crowd; there’s no doubt in my mind we don’t find the energy to get the win without the crowd. They made the difference. Everyone from the swim team with the Speedos on to some other groups. We had some ROTC members. They had fun. It was great to see us provide an environment of enjoyment for the college community.
“I’ve said before I think it’s the most fun you can have on a college campus before 10 o’clock.”
The crowd was especially loud when Slippery Rock’s Matej Delinac stepped to the free-throw line for three game-tying shots.
The fans, including IUP President Dr. Michael Driscoll decked out in a whiteout shirt and red IUP bow tie, got their chance to relive some of last year’s title game joy by storming the floor after Slippery Rock’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer was long.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect them to storm the court. It’s just a regular season game, so I didn’t take much importance to that,” Lombardi said. “I guess it’s a little payback for them because they beat us last time for their senior night, and they stormed the court like they won a championship. It was just an extra factor, it really didn’t mean much.
“I really appreciate everybody coming out. The atmosphere was crazy, one of the best ones I’ve had here at IUP, and I just appreciate everyone coming out and supporting us.”
Mathis Keita (senior, communications media), who scored the game-winning layup with 2.3 seconds remaining, said he was also thankful for the fans who turned out.
“It was just a great game. It was just a great atmosphere. The fans really gave us a lot of help. This place was rocking.
“It was just an awesome feeling.”
IUP returns home on Feb. 1 for a matchup against the Clarion University Golden Eagles.