By: Lucas Packer
Just in case you haven't noticed, the IU South Bend men's basketball team is pretty good. They are a tough, battle-hardened, and focused group. They have veteran leadership and more depth than ever before in the Tapp era. Most importantly, they are together, and when they are together, they are hard to beat. Purdue North Central found that out the hard way last night as they invited the Titans into the LaPorte Civic Center and got blasted by a final score of 70-36. The 34-point victory is the largest of the year for IU South Bend and is the eight win in their last ten games. It was also the second blowout win in a row for the Titans, as they crushed the Holy Cross Saints 75-53 in their last game.
Steven Heatherly continued his hot play and newcomer Austin Fox had his best game as a Titan, including a monster one-handed slam over a paralyzed Panther defender in the second half. Heatherly netted 20 points on 7/14 shooting, including 5/9 from long-range, to go with 5 rebounds and 4 steals. It was the second game in a row that he has scored twenty-plus points. Fox exploded as well, finishing with 22 points on 9/16 shooting, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals. As a team, IU South Bend shot 46% from the field for the game, compared to just 32% for PNC. The Titan defense was stifling all night, limiting the Panther offense to scoring in the teens in both halves (19 in the first, 17 in the second). IU South Bend also forced Purdue North Central into 18 turnovers while committing only 10 themselves. Only one PNC player, Nick Lafty, scored in double figures and he finished with 10, with 6 of those coming from the charity stripe.
With the win, IU South Bend improves to 14-7 on the year, including an impressive 11-4 in conference. That's good enough to have a firm grip on third place in the competitive CCAC. Upon closer inspection the record is even more impressive given that fact that five out of the seven Titan losses came against teams ranked in the Top 25 in the country. Cardinal Stritch University is currently #5 and has spent time at #1 this season. Andrews University is #6 (USCAA). The crosstown Bethel Pilots are #21. Columbia University (MO) is #2 in Division I of the NAIA. St. Xavier, the last team to beat the Titans, is ranked #23. To take it a step further, no team NOT ranked in the Top 25 national rankings has defeated IU South Bend since the early weeks of the season. One of those teams was Holy Cross, who beat the Titans by one in a come-from-behind victory in the Titans' fourth game of the year. Refer back to the first paragraph if you would like a refresher on how the rematch against Holy Cross went earlier this week. IU South Bend will have a chance to avenge the other early season loss next week when they face off against Roosevelt University in the SAC. First, they must go on the road to face off against an always-tough Olivet Nazarene University squad. That game is on January 16th with a scheduled tip-off of 8pm.