Eagles win GLVC tourney but fall short in NCAA tourney

Chris Procacina

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Last Saturday, the 14th ranked USI men’s basketball team fell in the first round of NCAA Division II Midwest Regional to Michigan Tech University by a score of 75-70. Despite the loss, the season concluded with many high points for the Eagles who earned their 12th GLVC Championship.

After beating  Bellarmine 86-73 for the third time this season in the GLVC Championship game, senior forward Aaron Nelson had plenty to grin about. The GLVC co-Player of the Year and 2014 Daktronics, Inc. Midwest Region Player of the Year posted 22 points and 13 rebounds in the victory over the Knights. With a clipped down net hanging around his neck, he could only smile as more awards were piled on. Nelson earned the tournament’s Most Valuable player award and was named to the All-Tournament team along with fellow senior Lawrence Thomas.

“This whole tournament we played with a chip on our shoulder,” said Nelson. “Defense was our big emphasis. All our guys, we wanted to come out here and win this for coach and for all our seniors and go out with a bang.”

A big spark on the dominant defense was junior guard and GLVC All-Defensive team member Gavin Schumann who transferred from Sinclair Community College to join the Eagles this season.

“First year here and we did it. We’re a good team and we kept our heads on straight,” Schumann said.

Senior guard Lawrence Thomas added a game and season high 23 points in the championship game in route to his second GLVC title as an Eagle.

“It feels good to be a (champion) again. This is my second one. The first one was in my home town and this one was in Evansville. No two better places to win a championship,” Thomas said. “Winning in front of a home crowd and all the support we got over the three nights, there is no better feeling than that.”

Thomas and Nelson weren’t the only ones to get in on the offensive action. The starting five: Thomas, Nelson, Schumann, Orlando Rutledge, and Taylor Wischmeier combined for 84 of the 86 points scored. Rutledge and Schumann both reached double figures in scoring as well with 18 and 13 points respectively.

USI head basketball coach Rodney Watson was content with the roles every member of the team played throughout the tournament in which they won every game by an average of just over 14 points.

“You want to win a championship because that stays in your trophy case forever. So when you come back to campus, that’s always going to be in there,” Watson said.

Coach Watson also acknowledged the toughness of the GLVC as his team received a higher national ranking in the NCAA tournament as a result of their GLVC tournament victories. The Eagles ended the tournament with three straight days of  victories over nationally ranked opponents.

The Eagles knocked off the 23rd ranked Flyers of Lewis University 92-74 in their quarterfinal round and followed the victory by defeating 4th ranked Drury University 75-57. Drury previously won the 2013 GLVC and NCAA DII National Championships.  Bellarmine also claimed both championships back in 2011.

After finishing the year with a 25-6 (13-5 GLVC) record, the team will look to rebuild after graduating 8 seniors.

 

 

 

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