3/8- PSAC Semi-Finals, Bloom Women Win, ESU Men Fall

BLOOMSBURG ­­- The Bloomsburg University women's basketball team defeated Edinboro University 76-73 Friday night in front of a roaring Nelson Field House in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) semifinal game. With the win, Bloomsburg advances to the PSAC final Saturday night to face Gannon at 7 p.m.

INDIANA, Pa. - East Stroudsburg University cut a 19-point deficit to six with just over two minutes left, but Slippery Rock held off the defending PSAC champion Warriors for a 68-59 win in the PSAC semifinals on Friday night at IUP's Kovalchick Center.

ESU (22-6), playing in its fourth straight PSAC Final Four, was led by 20 points and 10 rebounds from senior forward Duane Johnson, who played in his school record-tying 117th career game along with senior forward Terrance King.

Devin Taylor had 22 points and 14 rebounds and Gerald Brooks had 15 points and eight rebounds off the bench for Slippery Rock (22-7), which advances to the PSAC final for the second time in three years. The Rock will play the winner of tonight's second semifinal between host IUP and West Chester and will be looking for its first PSAC championship since 1963.

ESU forced 20 turnovers and held its own on the glass with the nation's top rebounding team, but was unable to get much to fall at the offensive end. The Warriors were 15-for-57 (26.3 percent) after shooting 63 percent in a 102-44 win over Bloomsburg, and 53 percent in a 102-74 win over Mansfield in the PSAC semifinals. ESU made 25 three-pointers combined in the two wins, but was just 3-for-19 on Friday.

Sophomore guard Whis Grant, the PSAC East Athlete of the Year, scored all 13 of his points in the second half. King had 11 points and five rebounds after being forced to the bench with three fouls in the first half. Senior forward Gerald Bridges added six points.

ESU had rallied from a halftime deficit in all three of its wins on the way to last year's PSAC championship, but couldn't recover from a 35-20 margin against the Rock. SRU built its lead to 48-29 with 11:20 to go before the Warriors chipped into it with a 7-0 run, getting a three from Johnson, a layup from Grant and two free throws from senior guard Blair Ramsey.

Slippery Rock pushed it back to 54-39 with just over five minutes left when ESU got back in it with a 13-4 run. The Warriors got it to 10 a jumper by sophomore guard Matt Tobin, then Bridges had a steal and converted a three-point play to make it 58-51.

Johnson made 1-of-2 to cut the margin to six, but Brooks had a three-point play at the end of the shot clock to buoy SRU. The Warriors had a last push to trim an 11-point game to seven with 36 seconds left, but it wasn't enough.

ESU fell behind 11-2 early, but had rallied from an 11-0 deficit (and 32-26 halftime deficit) in an 84-72 win at Slippery Rock on January 11, the fourth game of a school record-tying 14-game winning streak. Grant scored 23 of his 28 points in the 2nd half, with ESU outscoring SRU 58-40 after intermission.

ESU is one of just nine teams to make four straight PSAC Final Fours in the last 30 years. The Warriors were trying to get to the third PSAC championship game in school history and won the previous two, in 1990 and 2012. Only two teams in the last 30 years - Edinboro (2005-06) and IUP (2010-11) - have won back-to-back PSAC championships.

The field of 64 teams for the NCAA Division II Tournament will be announced on Sunday night at 10:30 p.m. on ncaa.com. ESU was No. 6 in last week's Atlantic Region rankings with the top eight teams selected for the field.

Bowie State, not among last week's top 10, won the CIAA's automatic bid. West Liberty won the WVIAC Tournament, and the PSAC Tournament champion will also gain an automatic entry.

ESU has been selected to the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three seasons, receiving an at-large bid in 2010 and the automatic bid last year.

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