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March 25, 2004

Gordon’s bucket sends USI to championship game

University of Southern Indiana senior guard Joe Gordon (Palm Bay, Florida) hit a lay-up with two-seconds to play to propel the Screaming Eagles into the NCAA Division II National Championship game with an 83-81 victory over the Metropolitan State College of Denver Thursday evening in Bakersfield, California. USI, which raised its record to 28-6 overall, will play Kennesaw State University game Saturday at 10 a.m. for the national title.

The victory over Metro State marks the second straight season that USI has knocked off the number one ranked team in the nation in the NCAA II Tournament. The Eagles defeated Michigan Tech University last season in the semifinals of the Great Lakes Regional.

In a contest that saw 12 lead changes, USI jumped out to the early lead, 7-3, when Metro State responded with a run of their own to take a 22-16 lead with 11:43 to play in the first half. The Eagles responded with a 15-0 run to take a 31-22 lead before the Roadrunners finished the half with a 15-6 run to lead 37-36 at the intermission.

The second half saw the Eagles in control most of the way, taking a the lead, 48-46, on a lay-up by senior forward Clarence Chillers (Glendale Heights, Illinois) with 16:29 to play. The Eagles would build the lead of as many as seven points, 59-52, but the Roadrunners stayed close.

Metro State tied the score, 81-81, on a pair of free throws by senior forward Luke Kendall with 44 seconds to play, setting the stage for Gordon’s heroics.

Junior guard Cris Brunson (Evansville, Indiana) led the way for the Eagles with a career-high 27 points, 14 in the first half and 13 in the second. Gordon scored all 17 of his points in the second half, while senior forward Billy Harris (Carbondale, Illinois) dropped in 13 points. Harris and senior center Jon Oden (St. Louis, Missouri) led the Eagles with seven rebounds each.

The Eagles will be playing in the NCAA Division II Championship game for the third time in the history of the program. USI was the NCAA II finalist in 1994 and the national champion in 1995.

USI also is making the GLVC’s 11th straight appearance in the title game Saturday.

Ray Simmons, USI Sports Information

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