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- American basketball player and coach
OWENSBORO, Ky. -- Isaiah Swope wasn't nervous. But it would have been understandable if he was.
Trailing by two with less than 20 seconds to play in a rivalry contest, University of Southern Indiana men's basketball head coach Stan Gouard drew up a play for the freshman guard.
As he did so many times before during his high school days at Castle, he came through.
Swope hit the game-tying shot in the final seconds of regulation and made several big plays in overtime as USI defeated Kentucky Wesleyan 85-80 in the Battle of the Bridge. It's the eighth straight win for the Screaming Eagles in the rivalry series.
"He's going to be a legend at USI if he stays all four years, I'm gonna tell you that right now," said senior guard Mateo Rivera. "What he did tonight, we see everyday at practice. It's nothing new to us."
Swope didn't play a single minute in the first half. But he knew if his number was called, he'd make the most of it. It's safe to say he did more than meet expectations.
He hit a three-pointer to tie the game with 1:45 to play. He followed that with two consecutive game-tying shots to send the game to overtime. And for good measure, another bucket to kick off the extra period. He scored 11 points in 15 minutes of action.
"It feels good to know your teammates have your back. It gives me that extra confidence to just go out and play my game," Swope said. "They believe in me everyday."
It's hard to call a game in November a must-win but after USI's 101-88 loss Monday at Cedarville, this was one the Screaming Eagles definitely wanted. Especially against a regional foe.
The Screaming Eagles went into the halftime break down 42-36. There were plenty of positives such as the play of Jelani Simmons. But too many defensive lapses and offensive rebounds led the Panthers to have a six-point lead.
"In the first half, I thought we struggled a bit defensively but we figured it out," Gouard said. "We got down as much as six or eight in crunch time but we kept grinding it out. We focused on defense instead of offense. When that’s your focus, good things will happen for you."
Swope tied the game for USI for the first time in the second half with seven minutes to play. But he wasn't the only one who hit big shots down the stretch. Look no further than the plays made by Rivera.
The veteran gave the Eagles a lead with six minutes to go on a 3-pointer. Then, he followed that by breaking a tie with another three in overtime. A team-high 16 points for the fifth-year senior. He's who USI wants with the ball in its hands in those situations.
"He wanted those free throw shots late, he talked his tail off on defense and made sure rotations were good," Gouard said. "I trust his decision making."
Rivera added: "I knew my number was gonna be called. I came out here and did what I do. I just wanted to be able to lead the team."
Several guys had performances worth noting. Jacob Polakovich fought through injury for a nine-point, nine-rebound performance. Tyler Henry was a fierce on-ball defender. Clayton Hughes knocked down a few big threes in the first half.
This was the type of game Gouard wanted to see in a rivalry contest. However, this wasn't reminiscent of the showdowns between Kentucky Wesleyan and USI that Gouard remembers from his playing career.
There were plenty of empty seats. It didn't have the same aura as those games in the 1990s. Gouard said that both he and KWC head coach Drew Cooper want to do whatever they can to make this feel like the old days.
"This Is what college basketball is all about. Back when I played, there were people sleeping in the lawn trying to get tickets for the KWC-USI game," Gouard said. "We want to get rivalry back where it was when Bruce Pearl and Ray Harper were going against each other."
USI women knock off top-10 squad
There's no better way to kick off Thanksgiving weekend than with a win. Especially a victory over a nationally ranked regional foe.
USI defeated No. 6 Ashland 63-58 to improve to 4-1 on the season. It's Southern Indiana's first win over the Eagles since 2014.
"We knew we’d have to defend and put up buckets. Holding them under 60 was huge," said head coach Rick Stein. "It feels great going into Thanksgiving break with this kind of W."
The Screaming Eagles led for practically the entire game after a fast start pushed them ahead 17-8 after one. Some big buckets from senior forward Ashlynn Brown (13 points, five rebounds) and sophomore forward Meredith Raley (10 points, eight rebounds) pushed USI's lead to 35-23 at the half.
Ashland wasn't going to go away easily. The Eagles remained around 10 for most of the third quarter and eventually trimmed the deficit to as few as four points in the fourth quarter. But USI limited its turnovers and knocked down free throws to secure the victory.
"Coming into this game, I knew every possession was going to matter," Stein said. "When push came to shove, we made a few more plays and got stops at the end we needed to get."
Brown and senior guard Emma DeHart led the team with 13 points while Raley and junior forward Hannah Haithcock (10 points) also finished in double figures.
USI's defense forced Ashland into 22 turnovers. They also outscored the Eagles 42-24 in the paint and didn't bail them into easy opportunities at the free-throw line after Ashland shot 20-of-20 at the charity stripe in its last game against Lewis.
"Coach (Randa) Gatling scouted today and had us in tune with what their strengths were. I thought we did a great job of taking away strengths," Stein said. "The little things are big things especially when you’re playing a great team like Ashland. If we can continue to do those, I think we have a chance to compete with anybody."
Contact Courier & Press sports reporter Hendrix Magley via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @TweetsOfHendrix.
This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: USI men's basketball outlasts Kentucky Wesleyan in OT of rivalry showdown