Eagles beat Lewis 88-80 in OT, advance to GLVC semifinals

Zane Clodfelter

Southern Indiana junior guard Orlando Rutledge heard from Head Coach Rodney Watson about rebounding the ball more in practice leading up to the Eagles quarterfinal match up with Lewis University.
Rutledge took the advice from his coach to heart and pulled in a game-high 15 rebounds to go along with his 19 points as No. 18 USI pulled away in overtime to top Lewis 88-80 in the quarterfinal round of the GLVC tournament at the Ford Center.

“Coach Watson told me I need to do a better job rebounding, so I made that my main focus for every game to get rebounds,” Rutledge said. “I feel like rebounding is an easy way to get points.”

The Eagles dominated Lewis in rebounding throughout the game, but the Eagles crashing of the boards intensified in the second half after out-rebounding the Flyers (19-9, 12-6 GLVC) by 7 in the first half in building a 36-33 lead at the break.

“It’s hard to get rebounds when you got (Wischmeier and DeWitt) eating up all those rebounds,” said Rutledge. “(DeWitt) is going to shoot the ball so all I have to do is drive and crash the boards and try and find every rebound I can.”

Senior center Keith DeWitt set the offensive pace early, scoring the Eagles (21-6, 13-5 GLVC) first 6 points of the game as USI jumped out to an early lead.

DeWitt would finish with 25 points, a game high for the Eagles, and tallied 12 rebounds.

The double-double combination from Rutledge and DeWitt marked the first time since 2011 that USI teammates collected a double-double in the same game.

“Keith is such a wide target; he’s hard to get around in front,” Watson said. “You can’t say enough about his effort in the low post.”

Lewis was lead by sophomore guard Ryan Jackson who had a game-high 30 points, helping the Flyers push the game into overtime in front of the 1,442 fans at the Ford Center, a predominate USI crowd.

“I told those guys in the locker room this is what a NCAA tournament feels like,” Watson said. “I complimented our guys in the locker room how they maintained their composure.”

After Lewis forced overtime by storming back from a 12 point deficit with 10 minutes left in the second half, the Eagles clamped down defensively and the Flyers missed their first 7 shots of the overtime period.

“I give credit to our perimeter defense,” DeWitt said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game coming in.”

Scoring wasn’t a problem for USI, as the Eagles used a 14-5 run in overtime to blow the game open in the extra frame, setting up a rematch (Saturday- 2:30 tip) against Universtity of Wisconsin-Parkside in the semifinal round.

The Eagles were swept by UW-Parkside in the regular season series, with USI falling in OT, 72-76, in their most recent match up at the PAC in February.

DeWitt says the key for success against Panthers is getting up and down the floor quickly.

“It’s going to be a tough game, they are well coached . . . we’ll have to beat them up and down the court.”