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March 14, 2006

Eagles' comeback ends in disappointment,
Fall to SIU Edwardsville in overtime

SIU Edwardsville (25-7): 64
Southern Indiana (27-7): 60 (ot) Box Score

RENSSELAER, Ind.The University of Southern Indiana men's basketball team turned a 15-point halftime deficit into a seven-point lead with less than four minutes to play in regulation but a pair of late three-pointers by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville sent the contest into overtime, where the Cougars came out with a 64-60 victory to win the NCAA II Great Lakes Region Championship and end the Screaming Eagles' run at the 2006 NCAA II Elite Eight.

After shooting just 16 percent and scoring 11 points in the opening period, the Eagles found their stride in the second half, connecting on nine three-pointers in the last 25 minutes of the game.

USI (27-7) dominated the Cougars throughout the first 16 minutes of the second half, outscoring the seventh seed 35-12 to take a seven-point lead with 3:52 to play in regulation.

Danny Gibson

Geoff Van Winkle

Senior guard Danny Gibson (Madison, Indiana) scored 14 of his team-leading 19 points in the second half and junior forward Geoff Van Winkle (Ferdinand, Indiana) matched Gibson's three second-half three-pointers to put the Eagles into position to win the game. Both players connected on a three-pointer in the overtime period as well.

Gibson, along with fellow classmate Chris Thompson (Starke, Florida), was named to the All-Tournament team.

SIU Edwardsville (25-7), however, made its impact from behind the arc as it drained two in a span of one minute to tie the contest at 46.

USI had a chance to win game in the closing seconds, but an over-and-back call put the ball in the hands of the Cougars with five seconds to play in regulation. The Cougars, however, could not convert as the two teams went into overtime for the second time in three meetings.

The Cougars, which were held to just 20 points in the second half, found their stroke in overtime as they connected on 5-of-7 from the floor and 8-of-10 from the line. Junior forward Mike Hardiek scored eight of his team-leading 19 points in the extra period to lead the Cougars. Hardiek was selected as the tournament's most outstading player for his efforts.

USI, however, shot just 35.7 percent from the floor in overtime as it fell behind by as many as eight in the extra frame.

The Eagles closed the gap to two on a couple occasions, but the free throw shooting of SIU Edwardsville junior guard Ty Johnson, who was 6-of-7 from the line in overtime, sealed the win for the Cougars and their first NCAA II Great Lakes Regional Championship. Johnson also earned All-Tournament honors as did Saint Joseph College's Sullivan Sykes.

For the Eagles, the loss puts and end to what was another stellar year for USI men's basketball. The Eagles started the season by winning the prestigious Disney Division II Tip-Off Classic recorded 25 wins for fourth straight season and 11th time in 13 years reached the NCAA II Tournament for the 13th time in the last 14 years and reached the NCAA II Great Lakes Region Championship game for the third time in the last five years.

Dan McDonnell,
USI Sports Information

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