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March 17, 2003

Eagles fall despite valiant comeback

#3 Kentucky Wesleyan College (29-3): 95
#23 University of Southern Indiana (25-7): 91

The 23rd-ranked University of Southern Indiana men’s basketball team fell to third-ranked Kentucky Wesleyan College, 95-91, Monday evening in the championship round of the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Regional Tournament in Houghton, Michigan. The Screaming Eagles finish their season with a 25-7 record while the Panthers (29-3) will make their sixth consecutive trip to the NCAA II Elite Eight.

After falling behind by 16 at the break, the Eagles stormed back to within three points with less than 12 minutes to play. USI shot 83.3 percent in the first eight minutes of the second frame as it got to within 64-61.

In the first half, KWC used an 11-0 run to take command of the game. The Panthers shot 70 percent from the floor and 71.4 percent from behind the arc in the first period as they raced out to 53-37 halftime advantage.

Once again KWC used another run, this time in the second stanza, to put end to USI’s comeback. The Panthers answered the Eagle’s furious run by reeling off six straight points to take a nine point lead with less than 10 minutes to play.

After falling behind by 13 with four minutes left in regulation and with junior forwards Billy Harris (Carbondale, Illinois) and Clarence Chillers (Chicago, Illinois) sitting on the bench with five fouls apiece, the Eagles mounted one final comeback attempt.

Senior forward Diond’re Givens (Mt. Vernon, Indiana) started the rally with a three-point play and sophomore forward Dennis Coutee (Jeffersonville, Indiana) followed it with a three-pointer from behind the arc to cut the lead to seven with 2:50 left in regulation.

Givens converted on a pair of free throws with 1:53 showing on the clock to cut the lead to five points. In all, Givens scored 13 points inside the final 3 ˝ minutes to finish with a game and career-high 32 points.

Down by seven with less than 40 seconds to play, senior guard David Ragland (Evansville, Indiana) drilled a shot from long-range to get the Eagles to with in four at 89-85. Ragland finished the contest with 13 points.

The Eagles closed the gap to three points with seven seconds to play after sophomore guard Cris Brunson (Evansville, Indiana) connected on two free throws. A Givens lay up cut the lead to two points with a second left, but KWC’s Bobby Zuerner put the game on ice with a pair of free throws with eight-tenths of a second remaining in the game.

For KWC, it was nothing but free throws, 38 of them in the second half (45 for the game) to be exact. The Panthers’ last field goal came with 6:59 to play in the contest. However, KWC made good on 19-of-26 free throw attempts in the final seven minutes to pull out the win.

The Panthers were paced by a 30-point effort out of senior guard Marlon Parmer and a 24-point effort out of senior guard Huggy Dye.

For the Eagles, their final run exemplified the type of effort USI fans were used to seeing—a tough, gritty team that overcame the odds and fought back. The Eagles, who got used to seeing double-digit scoring efforts from multiple players, fought back from a 0-2 start in conference play and a 5-3 start to the season to post their eighth 25-win season in 10 years and reach the regional championship for the first time in four seasons.

Monday night was no different for USI. The Eagles had four players score in double digits as they fought back from two large deficits. Junior center Reque Newsome (St. Petersburg, Florida) finished with 14 points while junior center Harris joined Givens, Ragland, and Newsome in the double-digit scoring column with 10 points.

Harris and Givens were selected to the All-Tournament team while Michigan Tech’s Matt Cameron and KWC’s Huggy Dye and Marlon Parmer rounded out the All-Tournament squad. Parmer was selected as the tou

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