USI falls short of title game


Katie Thompson

Running around a member of the opposing team, senior guard Alex Stein looks for an open teammate.

Elite Eight

The atmosphere of USI men’s basketball NCAA Division II Elite Eight game against West Texas A&M was electric with over 7,000 people in attendance at the Ford Center March 27.

The attendance hit the new record for the most in an Elite Eight game. The number included thousands of USI students, with the first 500 getting in free.

The game started out tight with both teams reaching a combined 21 points in the first 12 minutes. The ball was flying across the court and USI fans screamed for every field goal made for the Eagles. USI ended the game shooting over 50%, as opposed to West Texas A&M who shot 43.5% from the field.

There was singing and chanting for every time out. One man was pointing to different sections, signaling them to scream the next letter of USI, as loud as possible.

The crowd roared again as Alex Stein, a senior guard, scored a three-point shot. Stein leads the Eagles with 31 points.

“The crowd tonight was amazing,” Stein said at the press conference, after the game. “One of the best crowds I’ve played in front of for sure. They just gave us energy all night.”

Stein said the Eagles were ready from the start, being locked in on both ends of the floor.

USI came ready to play on the boards, outrebounding the Buffalos 46 to 34.

At the end of the night, USI defeated West Texas A&M 94-84, advancing to a Final Four matchup against Point Loma Sea Lions.

Final Four

The Eagles came out of the game looking tired in front of a hometown crowd, shooting just 10 for 27 in the first half.

Their free throw shooting keeps them in the game as they shot 70% from the line. USI ended the first half just one point behind Point Loma.

Point Loma held the lead toward the end of the game with the Eagles continuing to foul.

Stein and senior forward Jacob Norman both took a swan dive into the media tables. Kobe Caldwell, a junior guard and forward, narrowly missed the same fate, by turning at the last minute and running into the wall behind the tables.

But that didn’t stop USI fans from cheering on their favorite players. The crowd roared to life near the end of the game as Alex Stein made a basket in the final minute to become USI’s all-time scorer.

The Eagles eventually fell to the Sea Lions 81-71, ending their season and their chance at playing in the championship game in their hometown.

“Whenever you look up and you see thousands of people cheering for you, you have to give it your all,” senior forward Nate Hanson said. “There’s no other choice and that’s what I think we did tonight and the past couple games.”

Season Overview

The USI men’s basketball team this year did better than ever before. This year the Screaming Eagles scored 2,840 total points with an 81.1 point average and a 9.1 scoring margin.

At the end of the semester, the team will be saying goodbye to three of its top players.

Norman made 169 points this season and 562 over the four years he’s played at USI.

Hanson has scored a total of 681 points in the two years he has played for the university, 331 of which he scored just this year.

Stein broke two school records during his time with the Eagles and was named Academic All-District 4 by the College Sports Information Directors of America, the first-team All-Midwest Region by the Division II Conference Commissioners Association and the first-team All-Midwest District by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He leads the team with 20.9 points per game this season.

“I will tell you that the night we lost, I went into the locker room and these young men were just sobbing, and the reason they were sobbing wasn’t just because they lost, they were sobbing because they thought they let us down,” President Ron Rochon said. “I said ‘Oh no, on the contrary, you’ve made us proud, you’ve uplifted us, you’ve given us a lifetime of memories. We are so thankful to have you all as part of our community.’”