By Stephen Waldman
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Behind a 24-point performance by the Elite Eight’s Most Outstanding Player Kevin Capers, the Florida Southern Moccasins never trailed in their 77-62 win over the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Crimson Hawks for the school’s second national championship at the Ford Center Saturday afternoon.
The 2014-15 Mocs (36-1) join the 1980-81 team as the only two in program history to be crowned national champions.
“What an unbelievable feeling this is,” said head coach Linc Darner, who capped his ninth season at FSC with the school record in wins for a season. “These five seniors deserved it. All the hard work that they have put in on their own from last year, when we got beat in the first round, to today. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Along with Capers, guards Tyler Kelly (Pickerington, Ohio) and Tyler Logan (Landover, Md.) and forwards Bubby Johnson (Waldorf, Md.) and Stephen Battle (Waldorf, Md.) ended their careers on top after starting every game for FSC this season.
“For Kevin (Capers) and Tyler (Kelly) to win as many games as those two have won in four years is unbelievable,” said Darner. “Having gone to two Elite Eight’s and winning a nation championship in four years, they’ve won 109 career games now, which is a program record for players in Florida Southern history.”
In addition to Capers being named the tournament’s MOP, junior guard Dylan Travis (Omaha, Neb.) was also named to the all-tournament team.
After the No. 1 team in the land won the opening tip, both sides missed their first shots. Capers opened the scoring with a trey from the right elbow; and hit his first three shots in the half, all of which came from behind the arc. He paced the Mocs, and ended his career as the second-highest scorer in school history with 2,319 points.
That opened the scoring at 19:17, and things only went up from there for the Mocs. The closest IUP came to having a lead was after that next possession when they got two points, but FSC was determined to put this one away early. Getting out to a 14-4 lead just after the first media timeout, the Mocs would hold a near 10-point lead for the majority of the game. After the opening few minutes, the closest the Crimson Hawks came to Florida Southern was six points at the 19:50 mark in the second half.
“At the beginning of the game tonight, I thought we came out and played really well,” said Darner.
This would be an understatement. Similarly to the hot start the Mocs got against Bellarmine, they started the national championship game by going 6-6 from long range and 7-11 from the field. It was this explosive start that gave FSC an 11-point lead just more than eight minutes into the game.
By halftime, FSC had work its way to a 37-28 lead where Capers and Battle were tied with a game-high nine points. The lead would get as big as 16 with four minutes to go before the final margin settled at 15.
The Mocs are scheduled to return to Lakeland around 2:30 today to join a celebration on the FSC campus that starts at 2 p.m. in Babcock Gardens.