Ninth-ranked Southern Indiana dominated Virginia at Wise early, and then coasted to a 70-51 win improving the Eagles record to 3-0 in their opening game of the Bill Joergens Classic.
USI was led in scoring by junior guards Ben Jones – who collected 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting – and Lawrence Thomas, who added 10 points to the winning effort.
Defense was the dominant story for the Eagles in the first half, as Wise struggled to get any offensive rhythm during the first twenty minutes.
“I thought midway through the first half we were really solid defensively,” said USI head coach Rodney Watson.
USI held the Cavaliers (3-5) to just 16 percent shooting during the first half and forced twelve turnovers while the Eagles exploited a lackluster Wise defense building a 23-point halftime lead.
“We were able to advance the ball up the floor and get a big lead, and that led to giving some guys some significant minutes, and that’s really important for our team,” said Watson. “There was a good flow to the game.”
Watson was able to go utilize a majority of the bench, with 14 players on the roster seeing minutes. No player saw more than Manny Ogunfolu’s 22 minutes throughout the game.
“We wanted everyone to play heavy minutes,” Watson said. “That means guys had chances to make decisions with the ball.”
Thomas utilized his time on the floor, contributing all of his scoring in the first half as the Eagles built their 35-12 halftime lead.
“We wanted to come out and create energy,” Thomas said. “We always want to come out with a chip on our shoulder.”
In the second half, Jones took over the scoring load for the Eagles, scoring nine of his eleven points in the second frame as USI maintained a comfortable double-digit lead throughout rest of the game.
USI will have a quick turnaround tomorrow, playing Philander Smith, who lost the first game against fifth-ranked Bellarmine 92-69 at the PAC preceding the Eagles game.
Watson said the key for the Eagles tomorrow will be to handle the pressure that Philander Smith applies.
“We will have to handle their pressure well and contain their two main scorers,” Watson said.
Junior forward Taylor Wischmeier said there can be positives in playing two games in as many nights.
“It’s what you’re going to have in tournament time, so it prepares us for that,” Wischmeier said.
USI will tip their game off against Philander Smith tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m., with Wise taking on Bellarmine at 5:15 p.m. Both games will played at the PAC once again, as the Joergens Classic concludes tomorrow evening.