RICHMOND, Ind. – The Indiana University East men’s basketball team claimed its second consecutive River States Conference tournament championship with a hard-fought 79-75 victory against Indiana University Southeast on Feb. 27 on Lingle Court.
In a battle of nationally ranked teams, NAIA Division II No. 2 IU East (31-2), the RSC East Division No. 1 seed, extended its program-best winning streak to 25 games. NAIA Division II No. 13 IU Southeast, the RSC West Division No. 1 seed, dropped to 23-8.
Both IU East and IU Southeast have already secured spots in the NAIA Division II Men’s National Championship.
* With the game tied at 10 midway through the first half, IU Southeast capitalized on IU East turnovers and went on an 11-2 run that gave the visitors their largest lead of the first half at 21-12. The Red Wolves had four turnovers during the three-minute span.
* The Red Wolves answered the Grenadiers’ run with a big 12-3 surge of their own late in the first half that turned a 23-14 deficit into a tie game at 26. The run started on the defensive end, featuring blocked shots by Kendall Rollins and Jacoby Claypool, and ended on a Grant Leach four-point play – a 3-pointer deep in the corner while he was fouled.
* IU East was down 39-33 early in the second half, but erased the deficit with a pair of 3-pointers from Leach and a field goal by Bishop Smith. The 8-0 run gave IU East its first lead since early in the first half at 41-39.
* IU East was hanging on to a slim 71-69 lead late in the second half when Smith came up with a big steal and also converted a layup on the offensive end to give the Red Wolves a four-point advantage. This was the largest lead of the game for the hosts at the time. Lucas Huffman then connected with Rollins on an alley-oop dunk with 34 seconds remaining that gave IU East enough breathing room to finish the game in front.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
* IU East had a decisive advantage in bench points (42-6) and total rebounds (41-31). IU Southeast had its own advantages in points in the paint (46-32) and points off turnovers (26-12).
* The Red Wolves dished out 19 assists on 27 made field goals.
* IU East completed the season sweep of IU Southeast. The Red Wolves defeated the Grenadiers 86-67 in late in January on Lingle Court.
* IU East had four players in double figures, led by Rollins with a season-high 19 points. Smith (14), Jaylen McKay (12), and Leach (10) were the other players in double figures.
* IU Southeast had two players in double figures, led by forward Joe Jackson with a game-high 32 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Jamie Johnson also had 20 points.
“We just wanted come out and give the seniors on the team everything we had with this being their last game played on Lingle and wanted to send them out on a good note. IU Southeast came out and fought hard and gave us their best shot, and that is exactly what we needed heading into the national tournament.
“I just try to play my role for the team. If that means making shots, making plays, or getting stops, then that is what I will do.” – Bishop Smith
“This is exactly what we expected this game to be. Last year we did same thing on their court, and that is what they brought to ours this year. High energy, high intensity and both teams making plays. I come off the bench and just give the team what they need. Whether it’s offense, defense, getting steals or making shots, that is my role on the team.” – Kendall Rollins
IU East will be participating in the NAIA Division II Men’s National Championship in Sioux Falls, S.D. starting March 7 or 8. The Red Wolves will learn their seeding and first-round matchup for the national tournament Feb. 28. Fans can watch the pairings live at 6 p.m.