EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The University of Southern Indiana men's basketball team upset 15th-ranked Lake Superior State University, 94-77, during the first day of the Bill Joergens Memorial Classic Saturday afternoon at the Physical Activities Center. USI watched its record rise to10-3 overall, while Lake Superior State goes to 11-2 in 2017-18 campaign.
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The Screaming Eagles were looking to make up ground for a majority of the opening half, trailing by as many as eight points twice. USI rebounded to take the lead, 32-30 with a 13-4 run before Lake Superior State scored six of the last eight points of the half to take a 36-34 lead into the intermission.
USI senior forward Julius Rajala paced the Eagles during the first 20 minutes with 10 points, while junior guard Alex Stein followed with nine points. The Eagles struggled from the field in the first half, shooting 18.2 percent from long range (2-11).
The Lakers got off to a fast start to begin the second half and extended their halftime lead to nine points, 45-36, with a 9-2 run. USI responded when Stein scored nine points to lead a 21-11 surge to take its first lead of the second half, 57-56, with 8:56 remaining when junior guard/forward Nate Hansen converted an old-fashion three-point play.
After Lake Superior State regained the lead briefly, 58-57, it was all USI the remainder of the game. The Eagles took control with a 22-7 run to lead by 15 points, 79-64, heading into the final four minutes of the contest.
In the final four minutes, USI's lead would not shrink below 11 points as the Eagles converted on 15 of 18 trips to the free throw line to seal the 94-77 victory. USI set a single game record with 44 free throws made, including 33 in a row.
The Eagles were a blistering 63.2 percent from the field (12-19) during the second half, 66.7 percent from (4-6). USI also won the battle on the glass, 43-27, in the contest.
Individually, Stein finished with a game and season-high 31 points, 22 coming in the second half. The junior guard, who reached 30 or more points in a game for the third time in his career, ended the game 7-of-12 from the field, three of five from beyond the arc, and a perfect 14-for-14 from the stripe.
Stein's perfect 14-for-14 at line is the best single-game free throw performance (passing Marc Hostetters 13-for-13 versus the University of Indianapolis in 1997) and has established a new USI mark of 45 consecutive free throws made (passing Geoff Van Winkles 44 between 2005-06 and 2006-07).
Following Stein in the scoring column was freshman forward Emmanuel Little, who had 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. Little grabbed 12 of his season-best 13 off the defensive glass.
Joining Stein and Little in double-digit scoring were Hansen and freshman guard Mateo Rivera with 12 points each and Rajala with 11 points.
USI will finish the 2017 calendar year and the Bill Joergens Classic Sunday at 1 p.m. when it hosts Ohio Valley University. The Fighting Scots, who are 1-7 overall, come to the PAC on a seven-game losing streak after starting the year with a victory.
The Eagles lead the all-time series with Ohio Valley, 7-0, after defeating the Fighting Scots, 103-48, in last December's Bill Joergens Memorial Classic. The Eagles had six players in double-digits, led by guard Kyle Aiton's 19 points.
The final game of USI's three-game homestand is January 4 when the Eagles re-start Great Lakes Valley Conference action by hosting the University of Missouri-St. Louis at the PAC for a 7:30 p.m. contest.