Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Thomas, Rutledge Deliver Knockout Punch for USI

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Thomas, Rutledge Deliver Knockout Punch for USI

Article excerpt

After watching his University of Southern Indiana basketball team make just one of 10 3-pointers in the first half Sunday in the Great Lakes Valley Conference men's tournament championship game, Rodney Watson considered banning the long ball the rest of the afternoon. With Aaron Nelson bulling his way inside for 14 points, Watson wanted a few more of his players to attack the basket. And he became further convinced that would be the way to go after Orlando Rutledge misfired another three 98 seconds into the second half.

So at the next timeout, Watson looked at his players - particularly Rutledge and Lawrence Thomas - and offered sage coaching advice.

"I go, 'Hey man, the threes aren't going real well - let's drive it,'" said Watson.

Naturally, four of the next five shots the Eagles took - and made - came from behind the arc.

Recalling the moment, Watson chuckled. "Or shoot the three and make it," he said after USI defeated Bellarmine 86-73 in front of a crowd of 3,425 at the Ford Center.

Rutledge and Thomas, who each missed their first four 3- pointers, combined to deliver the knockout punches during a 13-3 run after the score was tied 38-38.

When Rutledge made the first of those treys, he was within whispering distance of his head coach. But Watson may have even had one of those "No, no, no.. Yes" moments on the sideline. Coincidence or not, that shot ignited a sluggish Eagles offense, putting them in control of their GLVC championship quest.

Thomas had a personal 8-0 run, including a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around a curling dribble drive to the basket. After missing his four attempts from behind the arc in the opening 20 minutes, the senior point guard was perfect from long range in the second half.

"My confidence was a little down after the first half, but my coaches and my teammates said, 'Don't worry about it. You'll hit them when we need them,'" Thomas said. "I remembered that, and the next thing you know I'm coming down and hitting shots and getting us a lead. …

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