Bezold: SIU justifies national ranking

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – They crash the boards more effectively than any team in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, and their .553 shooting percentage from the field ranks No. 2 in the latest NCAA Division II national statistics.

And, as Northern Kentucky University found out Saturday afternoon, the Screaming Eagles of Southern Indiana can play some mean defense when necessary. In fact, during Southern Indiana’s 75-56 win over NKU in Regents Hall, the Screaming Eagles displayed both the shooting skills and defensive intensity of a national championship contender.

No one had to convince NKU head coach Dave Bezold that Southern Indiana – ranked No. 5 nationally in the latest NCAA Division II poll – is one of the best teams in the country.

“There is a reason Southern Indiana is ranked fifth in the nation,” Bezold said. “We started out the game down 9-0, and then we gave up a 10-0 run at the beginning of the second half. I’m not sure what the magic wand is to correct that.

“Southern Indiana is an outstanding basketball team, and they were very consistent on both offense and defense in this game.”

Chris Thompson scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as Southern Indiana improved to 16-1 overall, 5-1 in the GLVC. David Bryant added 12 points for the Screaming Eagles, who knocked off NKU (9-4 overall, 4-1 GLVC) three times last season.

“(Thompson) is a heck of a player,” Bezold said. “Their big-time player made the plays, and we didn’t have enough of our guys doing that.”

Southern Indiana scored the first nine points of the game and held a 37-26 halftime lead. The Screaming Eagles opened the second half with a 10-0 run that was highlighted by consecutive 3-pointers made by Geoff Van Winkle.

His second trey gave Southern Indiana a 47-26 advantage, and the Screaming Eagles would later extend that lead to as many as 26 points (75-49).

“The two key points in the game were the first half, when they started out to a 9-0 lead, and the second half, when they started with a 10-0 run,” said NKU sophomore forward Vincent Humphrey, who scored a team-leading 12 points. “That’s 19 points right there we just gave away. That’s pretty much the game.

“We just struggled from the field at times, and there were some mishaps on the defensive end. I know that we are a lot better than that, so we’ve just got to clean some things up.”

Southern Indiana shot 53.3 percent from the field and forced 18 NKU turnovers. The Screaming Eagles held NKU to 40 percent shooting from the field and extended their current winning streak to nine games.

Gavin Ludgood and Billy Finnell each added eight points for NKU. Humphrey was the only Norse player to score in double figures.

“We were fortunate that Humphrey was capable of finishing off some plays, or we wouldn’t have had anybody in double figures,” Bezold said.

NKU did regain the services of injured starters Aaron Smith and Kevin Reinhardt, both of whom saw action Saturday. Smith, who had not played since suffering a fractured foot Nov. 19 against Saginaw Valley State, drained a 3-pointer in five minutes of action Saturday.

Reinhardt, who had not played since the Dec. 10 game at Brigham Young, netted five points in 11 minutes against Southern Indiana.

NKU hits the road this week for an 8:30 p.m. game Thursday night at Missouri-St. Louis. The Norse will conclude the two-game road trip at 4 p.m. Saturday at Missouri-Rolla.

*Contributed by Sports Information