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March 24, 2004

USI hangs on to advance in Elite Eight

Bakersfield, CA – The University of Southern Indiana men’s basketball team had to hang on to defeat Northwest Missouri State University, 88-81, Wednesday afternoon and advance to the NCAA Division II semifinals. USI raises it record to 27-6 overall, while NWMS finishes its season, 29-5.

The Screaming Eagles burst out of the gate in the first half, leading 27-7 with 10:03 to play in the opening stanza. The Eagles were led in the first 10 minutes by senior guard Joe Gordon (Palm Bay, Florida), who scored 14 of his team-high 21 points in the opening minutes. USI finished the half with a 16 point lead, 42-26, at the intermission.

NWMS made a game of it by scoring the first 12 points of the second half and cut the USI lead to four points, 38-42, with 16:49 to play. The Eagles responded to the Bearcats run by rebuilding the lead to 16 points, 67-51, at the 8:25 mark of the second half.

The Bearcats made another run in the final minutes when the USI free throw shooters went to work. Gordon, senior forward Billy Harris (Carbondale, Illinois), senior guard Avery Queen (Moreno Valley, California), junior guard Cris Brunson (Evansville, (Indiana), and freshman forward Geoff VanWinkle (Ferdinand, Indiana) combined to hit 13 of 14 from the line to seal the victory.

Brunson followed Gordon in the scoring column with 13 points, while Queen rounded out the USI double figure scorers with 12 points. Harris and senior center John Oden (St. Louis, Missouri) led the team on the boards with eight rebounds each.

USI will play the Metropolitan State College of Denver (32-2)Thursday evening at 6 p.m. (PT) for the right to play for the Division II National Championship Saturday, March 27. The #1-ranked Roadrunners defeated Rollins College, 88-54, in the second game Wednesday.

Ray Simmons, USI Sports Information

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