INDIANAPOLIS — Macee Williams recorded her third straight double-double of the Horizon League tournament with 19 points and 18 rebounds, and top-seeded IUPUI beat No. 4 seed Cleveland State 61-54 on Tuesday to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
IUPUI was playing in its third straight Horizon League championship game — winning in the 2019-20 season before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
IUPUI was ahead by 18 points midway through the third quarter before Cleveland State closed on a 15-3 run, capped by a Destiny Leo 3-pointer, to get within 45-39.
Destiny Perkins scored 10 points in the final 3:38 to help secure the victory for IUPUI. Perkins made a steal and missed a fast-break layup but IUPUI got the offensive rebound and Rachel McLimore was fouled and made two free throws for a 52-49 lead. After Leo spun in the lane for a layup to get Cleveland State within two points, Perkins was fouled while making a 3-pointer and her free throws made it 57-51 with 1:34 left.
Perkins finished with 15 points and McLimore added 11 points for IUPUI (24-4). Williams broke her own Horizon League record with her 38th rebound of the tournament in the third quarter.
Williams scored nine of IUPUI's 21 points in the first quarter as the Jaguars held a 14-point advantage. Williams reached double figures in the first minute of the second quarter, and secured her 13th double-double of the season on a rebound with 3:38 left in the second quarter. Williams had 15 points and 10 rebounds in the first half to help IUPUI lead 30-19.
Williams was the obvious MVP of the tournament after recording 25 points and 12 rebounds in IUPUI's 72-41 opening win over Robert Morris, and 27 points and 15 boards against Oakland in the semifinals. In late February, Williams was named the Horizon League player of the year for the fourth straight season — becoming only the fourth Division I women's basketball player to accomplish that feat.
Leo, the second-leading scorer in the Horizon League, scored 14 points for Cleveland State (19-8). Gabriella Smith also scored 14 points.
The Jaguars enter the NCAAs winners in 19 of their last 20 games — and also have a 74-73 victory against then-No. 15 Iowa on Dec. 21 and a 67-62 overtime loss to then-No. 11 Michigan in the season opener.
Cleveland State will now wait and see if its season will continue in a consolation tournament. The Vikings were the champions of the third-tier Women's Basketball Invitational in 2022.