Joergens legacy lives on through his tournament

Zane Clodfelter

No. 11 Southern Indiana didn’t need any additional motivation after falling behind by 20 to IU Southeast in their final game of the Bill Joergens Memorial Classic on Saturday. After all, the game USI found itself in carries the name of one of the university’s biggest supporters.

“Bill’s love for our university, his love for the athletic department- he’s the one that helps make this possible,” USI Head Coach Rodney Watson said. “We will always be in debt to him.”

Joergens was an athlete back when USI, then called Indiana State University-Evansville, formed the athletic department and sanctioned teams. He played on the university’s first basketball team in the late 1960s and, eventually, chaired the USI Varsity Club.

When Joergens died from complications involving cancer in April 2005, he left a major portion of his estate to the basketball program. The estate funds the Classic and a scholarship fund to aid basketball players who have used up their eligibility.

“Bill made a huge, generous contribution to the program that allows us to bring teams in,” Watson said.

Since the Classic began in 2007, the Eagles have only lost once. The team that was in the Classic on Saturday, gave the Eagles (4-0) all that they could handle.

The Grenadiers (5-3), a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school, raced out to a 42-22 lead 15 minutes in, after Jake Simpson capped off a 9-0 IU Southeast run with a three-pointer.

USI was able to stay in the game, despite the hot shooting of IU Southeast early, thanks in large part to senior forward Aaron Nelson and junior guard Gavin Schumann. In the opening stages, the Eagles pounded the ball inside to Nelson, who made the most of his scoring opportunities.

“It’s not good for us to get down like that. We don’t like being down like that,” Nelson said. “Whatever it takes to get it done.”

Nelson finished with a double-double, 28 points and 13 rounds, while shooting 11-17 from the floor in 31 minutes of play.

“My teammates set me up in good positions to score and that is what we tried to do,” Nelson said. “We are big. We had a big size advantage.”

As IU Southeast turned its main focus to the point, that freed up Schumann to help provide late game heroics in the final minutes of the game after the Eagles had trailed by 10 at the half, and by as many as eight points with four minutes left in the game.

After Nelson converted two free throws to pull the Eagles to within five, at 82-87, Schumann scored  including the final seven points and the eventual game winning three-point play with seconds left in the game. Schumann scored 16 of his team-high 25 points in the second half.

“We knew the middle drive was guard-able. We decided to kick the ball out to the wing and then bring it into the middle,” Watson said. “It wasn’t a great-executed ball screen, but the action went the right way and (Gavin) just made a tremendous basketball play.”

Schumann said he followed the game plan established by his coach.

“Get the ball to Aaron or get to the rack. That was coach’s game plan,” Schumann said.

While the Eagles cherished the comeback victory over IU Southeast, they appreciated the contributions from Joergens eight years ago even more.

“We would love for him to be here,” Nelson said. “He’s a wonderful person, we love him.”