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March 15, 2003

Threes lift Eagles to three-point win against top-ranked Huskies

#23 University of Southern Indiana (25-6): 74
@ #1 Michigan Tech University (29-3): 71

Three-point buckets were the story for the 23rd-ranked and fourth-seeded University of Southern Indiana menís basketball team as it topped number-one ranked and top-seeded Michigan Tech University, 74-71, in the semi-finals of the NCAA II Great Lakes Regional Tournament Saturday night at the SDC Gym in Houghton, Michigan.

USI (25-6) connected 47.4 percent of its shot from behind the arc, including a pair in the final four minutes of the game by senior guard David Ragland (Evansville, Indiana). Ragland connected on his first of the game at the four minute mark to give the Eagles a six point lead. His three-pointer with 32 seconds remaining in the game put the Eagles up by five.

The Eagles, who reached the 25-win plateau for the eighth time in 10 seasons, came into the game connecting on just 33.3 percent of their attempts from long range. USI upended that number by hitting 9-of-19 shots from behind the arc.

Just as impressive as their offensive performance from three-point range was the Eaglesí three-point defense. USI held Michigan Tech, who entered the game shooting 43.9 percent from three-point range, to just 28.6 percent (6-of-21) from long-range.

After a four-point play put the Huskies within a point at 72-71, sophomore guard Cris Brunson (Evansville, Indiana) drained a pair of free throws to force MTU into needing a three-pointer or a three-point play with 15 seconds remaining in the game.

USI held its ground and prevented an MTU desperation from falling at the buzzer. The win puts the Eagles into the regional championship against GLVC rival and third-ranked Kentucky Wesleyan College Monday night in Houghton, Michigan.

Sophomore forward Dennis Coutee (Jeffersonville, Indiana) atoned for an off night in the first round by drilling his first five three-point attempts against MTU. Coutee went 7-of-10 from the floor to lead the Eagles with 19 points.

Junior center Billy Harris (Carbondale, Illinois) fought off the Huskiesí size down low to dump in 17 points and grab a team-high seven rebounds. Harris, who became the 16th player in USI history to amass 1,000 career-points Friday night, went 7-of-10 from the floor and connected on all three of his free throw attempts.

Brunson and junior forward Clarence Chillers (Chicago, Illinois) rounded out USIís double-digit scoring efforts. Brunson finished with 16 points while Chillers added 10 points and five rebounds.

The Eagles played the Huskies to a 33-33 tie at the break. USI shot 41.9 percent in the first stanza and committed just four turnovers.

USI started the second half on a 7-0 run to set the tone for the remainder of the contest. The Eagles shot a blistering 55.5 percent from the floor in the second stanza to pull out the win and advance to the regional championship for the first time since 2000.

Tip-off for Monday nightís regional championship is slated for 6 p.m. KWC (28-3) advanced after knocking off the University of Findlay, 83-66, earlier in the evening. The match up ensures that the Great Lakes Valley Conference will send a member school to the Elite Eight for the 10th consecutive season.

KWC leads the all-time series with USI, 41-25, including the season series, 2-0.

Dan McDonnell,
USI Sports Information

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