OTTUMWA, Iowa – The No. 3-ranked Vincennes University Trailblazers faced another tough road matchup Friday night, facing another ranked NJCAA Division I opponent, their fourth of the year, in a rematch against No. 14-ranked Indian Hills Community College.
The Trailblazers won the first matchup between these two teams earlier this season in Vincennes, but IHCC was able to even the score in Iowa, coming away with an 80-75 victory over the Blazers in overtime.
The host Warriors got off to a very fast start in front of their home crowd, quickly building a 16-4 lead over the Blazers and expanding their lead to 15 midway through the first half.
Vincennes would answer back and cut the deficit back down to single digits, before IHCC got the lead back up to 10 at the half, heading into the locker room with a 41-31 advantage over the Blazers.
Indian Hills would come out of the locker room firing an get their lead back up to 15 early in the second half, before VU answered with six unanswered to cut the Warrior lead to 49-40.
The two teams traded baskets before VU cut the lead down to five at 63-58.
Vincennes got a big second half spark from freshman Gerard Thomas (Henderson, Ky.) who helped guide the Blazers to a 9-0 scoring run to take their first lead of the game with under two minutes to play.
Indian Hills would tie the game and Vincennes would look to set up a potential buzzer beating play but were unable to convert, sending this game into overtime.
With the Trailblazers headed to overtime for the first time since February 2022 and playing without sophomore Michael Osei-Bonsu (Bolingbrook, Ill.) who fouled out with just over a minute remaining in regulation, VU looked to continue to ride their momentum into the five-minute period.
Indian Hills was the first to strike in overtime, scoring the first five points before VU answered back to cut the lead to one.
The Warriors got the lead back to five with back-to-back baskets and Vincennes unfortunately ran out of time to make another late comeback as Indian Hills would hang on to pick up the 80-75 overtime victory.
“I thought the first 30 minutes of this game were about as disappointing as they could possibly be,” VU Hall of Fame Head Coach Todd Franklin said. “Then there was probably about five to eight minutes there when we got a group on the floor that kind of competed and we found some guys that somewhat wanted to do what we do and amazingly, things changed. We had an opportunity to get out of here with a win. I don’t know if you could say we deserved that if we had got it. But I thought for the group that was out there and made a run, they did a good job for a stretch.”
“But we’re still not as good defensively as we need to be,” Franklin added. “We are not working hard enough. Indian Hills just ran a little windshield wiper screen at the top of the key. If the intensity and focus had been right, we could have handled it. We battled it a little bit better when that group was in there, but it was still not up to the standards for what our group is supposed to be.”
“Offensively we grinded around and found some things,” Franklin said. “Gerard got some points during that time. But when he was playing well what he did well, most of it was in solid forms of how we are supposed to play. We started to get the ball inside a little bit during that time. Gerard made some plays during that time and the intensity picked up. Damarien was giving us some energy. He struggled to finish as much as he would like on some plays, but he was giving us some competitive energy that we were lacking and during that stretch we probably outrebounded them. So not surprisingly, things completely changed.”
“Not trying to take anything away from Indian Hills, they’ve got a good ball club,” Franklin added. “Obviously they are a top-15 team in the country and we’re playing at their place where they win about 90-percent of their games and it’s very difficult. But I just didn’t think that we played very well in the first 30 minutes and I didn’t do a very good job. I’ve got to do a better job of getting our guys to play the way that our program is supposed to be and reacting. I didn’t like our reactions. We’re still giving too many excuses, complaining to officials, that’s not what we do and we’re going to see if we can find people that want to do it the way that we do it. That’s what I tried to do as the game went along as best as I could and when we found a group that did it better, we performed a lot better.”
“But I’m going to do a better job of having guys that want to do it the way that we do it,” Franklin said. “The way we do things has been pretty good to people for a long time. So we are going to see if we can’t get back to that. I don’t think we did that tonight and because of that, I’d say that we probably didn’t deserve to win.”
VU was led offensively by redshirt freshman Lebron Thomas (Bishopville, S.C.) who finished with a game-high 21 points and four rebounds.
Freshman Gerard Thomas came off the bench to score 16 points, all in the second half and overtime, while also grabbing four rebounds.
Sophomore Michael Osei-Bonsu was the third VU scorer to reach double-figures Friday night, ending with 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Sophomore Karyiek Dixon (Enfield, London, UK) ended his game with eight points and five rebounds, while freshman Damarien Yates (Somerville, Tenn.) came off the bench to add five points, six rebounds and a pair of blocks.
Sophomore Ryan Oliver (Antioch, Tenn.) ended his night with six points, three rebounds and a team-high eight assists and three steals.
“I thought that the true freshmen tonight were our best performers,” Franklin said. “Because they had the most positive of energy on our team. Gerard and Damarien weren’t always perfect but probably gave us the most life and they are learning. It shouldn’t have to fall in their hands like that. We should have guys that have been through it who are hard-edged on the way we go about our business but those guys did and we’ll see if we can start pushing Vilhelm a little bit and see if we can get him going because I’m not going to keep turning around and asking these guys to step up.”
“You can see a difference,” Franklin added. “When the energy of those freshmen came in and Mathieu didn’t play quite as well but he was trying and he had an energy that was still more of a positive and it changed the game completely. So it’s pretty obvious if you watched the game, you could see it on display. Now we should be having that kind of energy and even better from the older group, obviously and they should be better at it and more refined in what we do. But you could see the difference when you have some competitive life and the way we are supposed to be with some more positive competitive life and those guys made a difference and hopefully they can learn from it and maybe they will be on the floor a whole lot going forward. We’ll see.”
The Trailblazers will look to bounce back quickly after a short turnaround to close out the weekend classic in Iowa.
Vincennes will return to Indian Hills Community College Saturday, Dec. 9 to face-off against Sauk Valley Community College. Tip-off Saturday is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. eastern.
“What they ought to take away from tonight is that they have to do better,” Franklin said. “And you ought to know how to do better here. We’ve been telling you since day one and we’ve told the guys before you that have had success that there’s a way here. You are not just out there indiscriminately. You know how you are supposed to play and you know how you are supposed to be. So we’ll see who wants to step up and do that and we’ll see who we give the opportunity to do that to.”
“I’m going to play some guys that play hard,” Franklin added. “We want guys that play hard, compete with physicality. I think we’ve got some pretty good sized perimeter guys and we’re not getting a lot of rebounds and we’re not getting a lot of physical play. We’re not getting physical play when we go into the lane and go through contact. We’ve got some good sized wings. We may not have the tallest post guys in the world, but we’ve got good sized wings. That’s just a toughness thing.”
“So we’ve got to find somebody that wants to do it,” Franklin said. “We’ve got to find someone that wants to guard that ball. Get squared up like we teach it and compete your tail off the way that we want it. I don’t think we’ve been doing it. I didn’t think we did it that great a couple of weeks ago in Moberly. We were getting caught on plays because we weren’t up there doing it the way we’re supposed to.”
“In fairness, I’ve said truthfully that with our sickness and finals this week, we’ve not had as much practice time as we need and we’re going to have to get serious about guarding people,” Franklin added. “Serious about moving the ball sharply. Serious about hitting the gaps and moving the ball rather than just flipping it around. Serious edge about going through contact on two feet and strong. Because those are the things tonight that got you. If we did those things the way we are supposed to, we probably would have won the basketball game and I think that’s pretty obvious.”
VINCENNES BOX SCORE
VINCENNES (75): Kris King 0-6 0-0 0, Kent King 2-7 0-0 4, Lebron Thomas 8-22 3-3 21, Michael Osei-Bonsu 4-7 4-6 12, Karyiek Dixon 3-6 2-2 8, Damarien Yates 2-6 0-2 5, Gerard Thomas 7-9 0-0 16, Mathieu Nader-Kalombo 0-3 0-0 0, Ryan Oliver 2-4 2-3 6, Victor Lado 1-2 0-0 3, Team 29-72 11-16 75.
VU (10-1) – 31 38 6 – 75
Indian Hills – 41 28 11 – 80
Three-point goals: VU 6 (L. Thomas 2, G. Thomas 2, Yates, Lado). Rebounds: VU 37 (Osei-Bonsu 7). Assists: VU 19 (Oliver 8). Steals: VU 9 (Oliver 3). Blocked Shots: VU 5 (Yates 2). Turnovers: VU 13. Personal Fouls: VU 19. Fouled out: Osei Bonsu.