MARION, Ind. -- No. 6-ranked Indiana Wesleyan University captured the program's second ever Mid-Central College Conference men's basketball championship on Saturday with a 63-44 win over rival Taylor (Ind.) University.
The Wildcats have now won two MCC titles in three years after going the first 38 seasons without one. With the 25th win of the year, the 2008-09 season is now second in program history in wins in a season. The 2006-07 season has the most wins with 30.
Indiana Wesleyan (25-5, 13-3 MCC) will enter next week's MCC Tournament as the No. 2-seed as Bethel (Ind.) College finished tied for first with the Wildcats at 13-3. Goshen (Ind.) College earned the No. 7-seed and will travel to Luckey Arena for the First Round contest at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 25.
But first, Indiana Wesleyan had to battle Grant County rival Taylor on Senior Day in the final regular season game. IWU survived the first meeting of the season in Upland 52-50.
Neither team was able to get a rhythm in the opening five minutes at the Trojans held a slim 5-4 advantage. Following a field goal by Taylor senior guard Alex Daniel with 15:24 on the clock, Taylor was held scoreless for the next seven minutes. In that time, Indiana Wesleyan scored 12 unanswered points and held a 16-5 advantage.
Taylor (11-19, 3-13) scored on their next three possessions to close the gap to 16-11. But Indiana Wesleyan would score seven of the next nine points to push the lead back to double digits at 23-13.
The Wildcats led 30-21 with 2:24 left before the break but the Trojans headed into the locker room with momentum as TU ended the half with seven of the last nine points. At halftime, IWU led 32-28.
The second half would feature an intense Indiana Wesleyan defense that stifled Taylor.
Over the first 11 minutes of the half Taylor was limited to six points. During the Taylor cold spell, Indiana Wesleyan gained their largest lead of 49-34 with 9:18 to play.
Taylor closed the difference to 10 points (50-40) with 7:13 to go, but 3-point baskets by senior guards Jon Moon and Antonio Murrell bookend an 8-0 IWU run. Indiana Wesleyan gained their largest lead of the afternoon of 21 points (63-42) before Taylor ended the game with a basket for the final score of 63-44.
After shooting 52.6-percent (10 of 19) in the opening stanza, Taylor shot 28.6-percent (8 of 28) in the second half for just 16 points.
Indiana Wesleyan dominated play on the boards and out-rebounded Taylor by a 36-22 margin. Junior forward Zach Coverstone pulled down a game-high 12 caroms with senior forward Landon Adler grabbing 11.
Coverstone made history with his one blocked shot on the day. The block made him the career leader in blocked shots in Indiana Wesleyan history with 179. He also holds the top two totals for blocks in a season.
Coverstone was also 6-of-9 shooting on the day and tallied a team-best 15 points. Adler added 13 points and freshman guard Derrick Troyer had 10 points along with five assists. IWU has now won all six games that Troyer has started since an injury to starting point guard Spencer Harris.
Taylor freshman center Jake Burkholder led all player with 19 points.