Indiana State gets by Cincinnati to reach NIT semifinals

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 27 Mar, 2024 at 05:57 AM

Credit: Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Robbie Avila broke a tie with a deep 3-pointer with 59.7 seconds remaining and finished with 22 points to rally top-seeded Indiana State to an 85-81 win over second-seeded Cincinnati in the NIT quarterfinals on Tuesday in Terre Haute, Ind.

The Sycamores (31-6), shunned by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, will get to travel 70 miles and stay in Indiana to play in the NIT semifinal April 2 against the winner of the Wednesday game between VCU and Utah.

Simas Lukosius had a game-high 26 points to lead the Bearcats (22-15), who saw their season end in the NIT quarterfinals for a second straight season.

Lukosius banked in a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left to draw Cincinnati within two. Isaiah Swope drained one of two free throws with 5.7 seconds left to increase the lead to three.

Lukosius was immediately fouled and made the first free throw with three seconds to go and then intentionally missed the second, but Indiana State's Xavier Bledson grabbed the rebound and hit two free throws to seal the win.

With Cincinnati starting point guard Day Day Thomas out due to a broken foot sustained in the first round, Jizzle James was again forced to play nearly all 40 minutes.

James, the son of former star NFL running back Edgerrin James, again responded in his second career start, finishing with 21 points.

Cincinnati took full advantage of six Indiana State miscues in the first half, outscoring the Sycamores 11-0 off turnovers. But Indiana State returned the favor in the second half, outscoring UC 19-2 off turnovers.

The Bearcats took a pair of eight-point leads, 48-40 and 50-42, on layups by Dan Skillings Jr.

But Indiana State exploded with a 3-point barrage, drilling seven of its first 11 attempts in the second half to spark a 32-15 run that featured a controversial call.

Julian Larry's traditional three-point play with 8:01 left gave Indiana State a 69-65 lead. On the ensuing possession, Cincinnati's Aziz Bandaogo was pushed from behind on a missed layup, but no foul was called.

Indiana State took full advantage when Xavier Bledson answered with a 3 that put the Sycamores ahead 72-65. Bearcats coach Wes Miller called a timeout and then raced onto the court and was immediately hit with a technical foul.

Ryan Conwell converted both free throws to give Indiana State its biggest lead, 74-65, with 7:17 left.

Cincinnati rallied to tie the game 77-77 on Lukosius' 3-pointer with 2:54 to go.

--Field Level Media