Time for a confession, and with this being a Sunday night tilt, it is rather fitting. I was running a bit later than normal. Didn't miss any of the game but had to hustle to get in the building to get to the top of the tunnel leading to my seat as the Anthem was starting. One of the features of the brand new Ford Center is a series of windows, seen here, that allow those inside to see out and those on the outside to see into the concourse. Scattered about are various flat screens showing the action inside. As I approached walking down Locust, I noticed something odd as Evansville took the floor for the final time, every member of the team was decked out in full warmups, shooting shirts and the purple/white candy striped pants. After attending many UE games this season it certainly caught my eye but I quickly disregarded it as my focus was taking those last 3-4 minutes of warmup time to get myself in the arena prior to tip. When the lights went out for the Evansville intros, it all made perfect sense as UE debuted orange uniforms for the first time in quite a while. I couldn't recall seeing Evansville in orange since the 1993-94 season when they wore orange all season at home in tribute of former head coach Arad McCuthan, who had died that summer.
Once all the pregame dramatics were done, Indiana State came out seeing red. Taking advantage of every turnover and using some great perimeter shooting, Indiana State led by 11 at the half. This is essentially the same Sycamore crew that surprised The Valley last season, finishing 3rd in the regular season before avenging two regular season losses vs this same Evansville squad in the first game before bursting the bubbles of Wichita State and then Missouri State in the title game, earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Sycamores got a big red liner at Vanderbilt, were a strong 9-2 in the non-conference, but have fallen on hard times ever since, entering 3-7 and in much danger of having to win four games this year instead of three to return to the tournament.
Evansville shored up some things on the defensive end and took better care of the basketball to cut into the lead. About midway through, each time it got to six, ISU would get a stop and then a bucket and the process would start all over once more. Finally Evansville broke through, the number moved to one and the dance started once more. Even when Evansville would get a possession to take the lead, the Sycamores wouldn't relent or Dwayne Latham would get into the lane and hit a mid range jumper that would bring the margin back up. Finally Evansville broke through on a transition old-fashioned three point play by Kenny Harris to tie it at 66, with just under two minutes to play. Evansville had finally fought all the way back to even. ISU did not score on their possession or off the offensive glass, UE matched with a miss of their own, a Colt Ryan jumper that cleaned the rim on the spin and did everything except drop. After a tie up on the jump ball, UE got a desperation look from Ryan as the shot clock was about to expire, also no good and it was time for some free basketball.
Colt Ryan hit a jumper for Evansville to start overtime, giving them their first lead in about 30 minutes of action. Then the whistles took over. Some combination of brute strength or just some touch fouls made a series of layups turn into trips to the foul line for the and one. Each two point lead turned into a one point advantage as a result. Finally the and one's stopped and ISU found themselves up two, needing one stop with just a few seconds to go. Ryan, the league's second-leading scorer, drew a blocking foul with only two seconds left. He calmly stepped to the line, drained them both, and what could be better than more free basketball?
The second overtime was rather anticlimactic. It looked more like a replay of the last ten minutes of the first half where Indiana State opened up their advantage. They held Evansville scoreless for the first four minutes, fouling out three UE starters on their way to the hard fought 90-81 2OT victory. The Sycamores found a bit of that magic that led them through the Valley last season and now have won three straight against Evansville, keeping that faint hope alive that they can arrive to the Valley Tournament a bit later than expected. After the two victories this week they still have the chance to play in that Friday night late 3-6 game, the same game that started their run to the dance last season.
INDIANA STATE 90, at EVANSVILLE 81 01/29/2012
INDIANA STATE 13-9 (4-7) -- D. Lathan 10-16 7-7 27; J. Odum 2-6 5-8 10; S. McWhorter 4-6 2-3 12; C. Richard 4-8 1-2 9; R. Mahurin 1-6 5-6 7; L. Eitel 2-6 0-0 6; J. Printy 3-4 0-0 9; M. Walker 3-4 0-0 6; J. Gant 2-2 0-0 4; J. Kitchell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-58 20-26 90. EVANSVILLE 10-11 (5-6) -- C. Ryan 6-20 10-10 23; T. Taylor 4-8 1-2 9; K. Harris 4-7 11-11 19; D. Holmes 3-5 1-1 8; R. Sawvell 5-7 1-2 11; L. Jones 0-2 0-0 0; N. Cox 3-6 0-0 7; R. Cesnulevicius 2-3 0-0 4; J. Nelson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-59 24-26 81.
Three-point goals: INST 8-20 (J. Printy 3-4; D. Lathan 0-2; C. Richard 0-3; L. Eitel 2-5; J. Odum 1-2; R. Mahurin 0-2; S. McWhorter 2-2), EVAN 3-13 (D. Holmes 1-2; L. Jones 0-1; C. Ryan 1-5; N. Cox 1-4; J. Nelson 0-1); Rebounds: INST 32 (C. Richard 7), EVAN 31 (T. Taylor 10); Assists: INST 23 (J. Odum 7), EVAN 22 (T. Taylor 8); Total Fouls -- INST 26, EVAN 26; Fouled Out: INST-D. Lathan; EVAN-K. Harris.