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Monday, May 27, 2024

Hope even in ISU’s NIT loss

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On April 4th, 2024, Indiana State University’s men’s basketball team ended its historic season with a letdown loss to Seton Hall in the 2024 National Invitation Tournament (NIT). The 79-77 loss in Hinkle Fieldhouse was a game of runs that went back and forth down to the final minutes of the second half.

After going on a run themselves to put the Sycamores up 77-70 late in the second half, Seaton Hall scored the final nine points in a statement finish to the game. Indiana State University (ISU) had chances to fight back and win in the final seconds, but multiple blocked shots by Seton Hall prevented them from winning.

ISU’s  Ryan Conwell hits a big 3 pointer over Seton Halls Dre Davis during their matchup on April 4, 2024, at Hinkle Fieldhouse(Photo/David)

“The ability to come to work with this group [for] 10 months and every single day and enjoy every one of them is mind-boggling,” said ISU Head Coach Josh Schertz following the game. “It’s something I’ll never forget, and I think it’s something the people of Terre Haute will never forget.”

ISU had a balanced scoring attack, with junior Isaiah Swope leading the way with 19 points. Julian Larry followed right behind with 18 points, and sophomore Robbie Avila and junior Jayson Kent finished with 13 points apiece.

The Seton Hall Pirates spent most of the first half with a slight lead of four to six points before pulling ahead by as much as ten late in the first half. The Sycamores put together a run to tie the game up 39-39 at the end of the first half.

The second half looked much of the same with both teams answering each other’s scoring streaks. With three minutes left, Indiana State went on a run, which prompted Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis to erupt in a celebration of ISU’s colors of light and royal blue.

Seton Hall then scored nine unanswered points to finish the game, leaving ISU fans in Hinkle silent and stunned.

The game ended with a layup for Seton Hall guard and Indianapolis native Dre Davis with 16 seconds left. Davis finished the game third in scoring for the Pirates with 18 points. Al-Amir Dawes led the Pirates with 24 points. Dawes’ impressive outing earned him the Most Outstanding Player award for the NIT.

Despite the loss in the championship, the Sycamores’ season could be seen as a success. They finished with a record of 32-8, which is the second most wins in a single season in program history. This was the team’s first ever NIT championship game in the school’s history, and the Sycamores won the Missouri Valley Conference for the first time since 2000.

The team also had breakout seasons from multiple players, helping lead the way for the winning season. Ryan Conwell and Avila were both named to the 2024 NIT All-Tournament team, and Avila was a First Team All-MVC selection this season. Avila averaged 17 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game during the tournament. He is only the 42nd player in ISU program history to surpass 1,000 points, and he just finished his sophomore year.

With 28 regular-season wins, a regular-season conference championship, and a net ranking of 29th before the March Madness Tournament began, some argued ISU was snubbed from the big dance.

A win in the NIT would have helped solidify that claim. Nonetheless, the Sycamores still made a strong case in their overall tournament play. In the first two rounds, they comfortably beat their opponents by an average of 10.5 points and beat Utah by 10 in the semifinal to make it to the championship.

With most of its starting five eligible to return, Indiana State will attempt to build on this year’s success and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament in 2025.

“Being able to play as long as you can for this season with a lot of guys who are going to return for next season and just continuing to get that experience with each other and building that chemistry to carry over into next season is big,” said Avila.

Contact Racial Equity Reporter Garrett Simms at 317-762-7847.

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  1. Sometimes success is not so good, coach leaving and players leaving. Now what? Tough to be a mid-major school!

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