EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Wilbur O’Neal’s tip-in of a missed lay-up by Darius Adams with five-tenths of a second remaining pushed Indianapolis past No. 4 Southern Indiana, 70-68, in front of 2,100 at the Physical Activites Center in Evansville on Saturday afternoon.
The Greyhounds’ (14-4, 7-3 GLVC) victory at Southern Indiana was its first in Evansville against the Screaming Eagles (16-2, 8-2 GLVC) since Jan. 23, 1982. Head coach Stan Gouard, a USI Athletics Hall of Famer and two-time National Player of the Year, won for the first time against his alma mater.
“I’m just there to clean up if anybody misses,” O’Neal said. “I just went up and got it. I didn’t rebound the way I wanted to in the first half and I told my teammates I would come out in the second half, block out my man and go for every rebound I could.”
After O’Neal’s tip-in, freshman Joe Daniels was whistled for fouling Kevin Gant setting a screen on the inbounds pass. Gant, however, missed the first free throw and USI was called for a lane violation during the second to cinch the victory.
The Greyhounds trailed by eight, 67-59, with 2:33 to go, but responded with nine points in a row to take the lead, 68-67, on another tip-in by O’Neal with 44.5 seconds to play. Back-to-back three-pointers by Adams and Cody Vest got the run started.
Brandon Hogg then made 1-of-2 free throws for USI with 21 seconds to go. He missed the second and Adams got the rebound and then drove down the right side of the lane. He threw a shot over his head that just missed banking in, but O’Neal was there for the put-back.
“It’s always good to come out and see all of these people down here,” Gouard said. “To come out here, play well and win the basketball game is a blessing. I’m up all night trying to find ways to stay in the game and we were able to do that. Our guys fought. Down eight with two minutes to go, it’s easy to quit, but we’ve shown resilience.”
Adams led the Greyhounds with 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while Vest came off the bench to hit 5-of-7 shots, including three triples, for 13 points and three rebounds. O’Neal added 12 points and five rebounds and Adrian Moss finished with 10 points, six assists and three rebounds.
“Vest made some big shots and we put him in the game because he is a pick-and-pop guy,” Gouard said. “Give him credit for being ready, because he hasn’t played much. We were just looking for answers.”
Despite O’Neal’s two put-backs at the end of the game, UIndy was out-rebounded, 41-34, and out-scored in second-chance points, 15-10. The Hounds made up for that by forcing 13 turnovers to out-score USI, 18-5, in points off turnovers. The Hounds also had a 28-14 advantage in points in the paint.
USI had five players in double figures, led by Hogg with 16 points and Mohamed Ntumba with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Southern Indian was The Eagles opened the game by scoring the first five points and eventually built a lead of seven, 14-7, with 14:07 to play in the first half. Five-straight points by Adams and a jumper by Blank tied the score in just 59 seconds, but UIndy couldn’t get the lead as its deficit went back to six, 24-18, with 9:56 to go.
A steal by Jarrett Hamilton that led to a fast-break lay-up by Vest helped UIndy start an 11-1 run to take the lead, 29-25, with 5:44 to play after three-pointers by Vest and Moss. The Hounds were able to keep the lead at four, 33-29, but a 7-1 run by the Eagles put them back in the lead, 36-34, with 1:52 to play. The teams then traded three-pointers in the last 34 seconds for the Screaming Eagles to maintain its lead, 39-37, at halftime.
In the second half, USI built its lead to 10, 57-47, with 9:54 to go, but the Hounds rallied. Back-to-back three-pointers by Squires and Vest and then Moss found a cutting Leland Brown for a lay-up on an 8-0 run that cut the margin to two, 57-55, in just 1:53.
USI, which had a full week off before the game compared with UIndy’s one day, came back with six points in a row to push its lead back to eight, 63-55, with 4:31 left in the game and still trailed by eight with 2:31 to play.
The Hounds return to Nicoson Hall on Thursday against Wisconsin-Parkside and Saturday against St. Joseph’s. Both games will be televised on Hometown Sports Indiana.