Nelson powers Eagles past Kentucky State

Pat Hickey

To say that Aaron Nelson put on a clinic on Saturday afternoon would be an understatement.

The 6-foot-8, 250-pound man scored a career-high of 31 points and set a school record with 27 rebounds as the University of Southern Indiana men’s basketball team blew past visiting Kentucky State University 92-69.

In other words, Nelson basically averaged a point and a rebound per minute.

“It will be a long time before you see someone do that again,” said USI Head Coach Rodney Watson, who earned his 100th career win. “You just can’t say enough about that kind of effort.”

Granted, Nelson had a clear size advantage against the Thorobreds (1-4). But, it’s not as if the ball was just falling into his lap. Rebounds aren’t something that you can go halfway on. Nelson was at rim-level or above on nearly every rebound he had.

“I’m not a big records guy,” Watson said. “They don’t impress me too much. But that’s one that does. I told the guys when they announced it, ‘Now that’s a record to be proud of.’ Because in all reality, he was doing that one pretty much by himself.”

Entering the game, USI had to overcome double-digit deficits in two of its past three games, and it looked as if the Eagles’s struggles would continue early on in the first half. But its defense stepped up and held KSU without a field goal for nearly eight minutes from the 9:35 to the 2:04 mark. USI went on an 11-2 run, during which time they built up a 41-24 lead going into halftime.

The most notable difference between the 89-87 win over Indiana University Southeast and against KSU was the improvement on help-side defense. Senior guard Lawrence Thomas noted that nobody on the team is subject to guard just one player. The Eagles were able to shut down the Thorobreds’s backcourt from coming off ball screens and diving into the lane, which put more pressure on them to shoot from beyond the arc.

In fact, the two key players for KSU—guards Ulysses Thomas (19.5 ppg) and Darquell Pulliam (21.0 ppg)—were held to just 36 percent from the field and committed nine turnovers to just two assists.

“Coach (Watson) had been talking about them all week,” said Thomas, who went a perfect 6-6 shooting for the day. “We took pride in defending our man and only giving them one shot. Getting the rebounds and keep getting shutouts.”

When Thomas and Ben Jones were subbed out, junior guard Alex Marzette stepped up. The 6-foot-5 combo guard was 8-10 from the floor for 18 points in just 13 minutes of action. Watson said the one thing he and his staff worked the most with Marzette was being intense on every possession.

“We’ve really been after (Marzette) on guarding and using his length,” Watson said. “I thought he was a problem for Pulliam. What was really nice to see is him catching passes and shooting in rhythm. But I thought Gavin (Schumann) and Alex both did a great job not letting their shooters get comfortable.”

The Eagles (5-0) will travel to Bellarmine, Ky., this weekend for the Fern Valley Hotel Classic. They will face Virginia Union University (1-5) on Friday and Ohio Valley University (1-9) on Saturday. Both games will start at 4 p.m.