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August 20, 2002

USI to play Western Washington and Washburn in Las Vegas

Just like the old Wild West, the University of Southern Indiana and the big guns of NCAA Division II basketball will meet in the 2002 High Desert Classic in Las Vegas, Nevada, December 13-15.

The Screaming Eagles, who were 22-8 last season and are 73-18 since 2000, will be paired against Western Washington University Saturday, December 14, at 7 p.m. (CT) and Washburn University Sunday, December 15, at 4:30 p.m. (CT). The Eagles have made three trips to the High Desert Classic since 1994-95, amassing a record of 5-1.

Western Washington is coming off a 21-6 record and a Great Northwest Conference championship in 2001-02. The Vikings, who were a 2001 NCAA II Elite Eight semifinalist, have a winning percentage of .765 (65-20) over the last three seasons.

Senior 6’10” center Mike Palm is the top returnee for the Vikings, averaging 13.6 ppg and 7.9 rpg as a junior.

Washburn returns its top two players from a team that was 20-8 last year. The Ichabods are led by junior 6’5” forward Manny Clifton, who averaged 18.3 ppg and 7.4 rpg, and senior 6’6” forward Ryan Murphy, who posted 14.7 ppg and 6.7 rpg.

In 2000-01, the Ichabods were 29-5 and advanced to the NCAA II Elite Eight Championship game. Washburn is just behind USI in victories since 2000 with a record of 72-20.

USI won its only meeting with Washburn in the 1994-95 High Desert Classic, winning 107-103 in overtime. The Eagles came back from a 17-point second half deficit and having six of 11 players foul out to win the game, propelling USI to its first national title.

USI Head Coach Rick Herdes enters his second season at the helm and has several returning and new weapons at his disposal this season. Great Lakes Valley Conference 2002 Freshman of the Year Cris Brunson, a 6’1” sophomore guard, is the top returning USI scorer with 13.4 ppg, while Billy Harris, a 6’4” junior forward, leads the rebounders with 6.6 rpg. New to the Eagles’ team is 6’6” sophomore forward Dennis Coutee, who averaged 19.8 ppg and 6.0 rpg at Riverside Community College in 2001-02.

Ray Simmons, USI Sports Information

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