By: Lucas Packer
Well, they know how to make it interesting. The IU South Bend men's basketball team played from behind for much of the contest today against Trinity International University but managed to put things together in the final minutes to defeat the visiting Trojans by a final score of 56-49. It was the second game in a row that saw the Titans come back in the final minutes after they were down 11 with four minutes to go a couple of days ago and came back to beat St. Francis on two Alanzo Bass free throws with :02 on the clock. Today it was Steven Heatherly and Chris Beam that carried the Titans, with a bit of help from Bass in the closing moments. More on that later.
The game started rough for the Titans. Unable to find any fluidity on offense, IU South Bend stumbled their way to just 24 points on 28% shooting from the field in the first half. That was the bad news. The good news? They played well on defense, holding the Trojans to just 20 points on 29% shooting, and after putting together a small run near the end of the half, actually held a slim lead heading into the intermission at 24-20. Steven Heatherly scored 11 in the half to keep the Titans afloat. No other IU South Bend player had more than 3.
The second half saw Trinity International grab the momentum early, closing the gap and then taking back the lead. With 7:45 remaining in the game, the Titans trailed 37-31. Then, the leaders of this IU South Bend unit took over. Timely shots by Steven Heatherly and aggressive play by Chris Beam, coupled with some renewed defensive intensity across the board, allowed IU South to fight their way back once again as they put together a quick run to knot the score at 40 with 5:45 remaining. Bass stepped to the free throw line with 5:28 on the clock and took the lead back for the Titans as he hit 1/2 from the stripe. By the time the clock ticked down to four minutes IU South Bend appeared to be in control as they held a lead of 46-40. The comfort was short-lived, however, as the Trojans refused to quit, clawing back within one (48-47) with just over a minute left in the game. It was then that Alanzo Bass, uncharacteristically quiet for much of the afternoon, decided to remind us of what senior leaders are supposed to do: make big plays. Chris Beam made the pass, dribbling around the top of the key before finding Bass on the right wing. With a much taller defender in his face, Bass confidently took a long three and as it nestled into the soft twines of the net, it was over. The Titans had pushed their lead back to 51-47, had taken back the momentum, and had deflated the battle weary Trojans. After some typical back and forth action including several fouls in the final minute, IU South Bend had secured the victory.
Steven Heatherly played a monster game for the Titans, scoring 19 points to go with his 10 rebounds. Chris Beam, who had only 3 at the half, finished with 15, and newcomer Austin Fox snared 7 rebounds while playing spirited defense throughout. Riley Stichter also played an excellent game for IU South Bend despite a modest line. Stichter finished with 5 rebounds and 2 steals but was constantly in the middle of the scrums, more than once extending Titan possessions with tips of the ball. After shooting terribly the first half, IU South Bend shot 44% in the second to finish at 37% for the game, while holding Trinity International to just 32% in the contest. The Titans also completely dominated the boards, winning that battle 40-23.
With the win IU South Bend moves to 12-6 on the year, including an impressive 9-3 in conference play, good enough to maintain third place in the CCAC, one game behind the #2 team, who happens to be St. Xavier University. Why is that interesting? The Titans are next in action on Tuesday, January 8th as they travel to (where else?) St. Xavier for a key conference matchup. IU South Bend will bring a good amount of confidence and momentum with them into the contest, as they are now winners in six of their last seven games. They also defeated St. Xavier in the teams first meeting, a 72-67 Titan win on November 7th. Tip-off for the upcoming contest is set for 8pm.