By: Bayley Goodman
A two-game regular season, 85 days of no practice or competitions, seeded last in the conference, and only two weeks to prepare for the conference tournament did not phase the IU South Bend men’s basketball team. They battled through a week of competitions knocking out the No. 2 seed, No.7 seed and No.11 seed all on the road at their opponent’s home court. Their final challenge, facing the No. 1 seed, Olivet Nazarene on their home floor in the CCAC Championship Game.
Not only were the Olivet Nazarene Tigers the No.1 seed, but they are also home to the 2020-21 CCAC Coach of the Year, Nick Birkey, and 2020-21 CCAC Player of the Year, Alex Gross. The Tigers were also seeking revenge after losing to IU South Bend in overtime of the CCAC Championships last year. Everything was going against the Titans and even though they are a great team, nobody expected them to make it this far.
The Titans tossed the ball between the team’s tallest players and the game began. The Olivet Nazarene Tigers got out to a quick start scoring the first eight points of the game but the Titans had an answer. The two teams battled back and forth for the first 20 minutes of the half each making their own small runs to try to take the lead. As the two teams veered off to their locker rooms at the half, the score was tied 40-40.
The second half was no different. The Titans and Tigers brawled into the final minutes of the game. IU South Bend reached within two with 3:17 left to play before the Tigers started to pull ahead after scoring eight points to the Titans two. With only 13 seconds left, the Titans trailed by four points before an IU South Bend offensive put-back brought them within two. Olivet Nazarene inbounded the ball and was fouled, sending them to the free-throw line for a one-and-one.
The Titans grabbed the board as the 81% free throw shooter missed the first of his potential game-sealing free throws. With only eight seconds and no time-outs, the Crimson and Cream pushed the ball up the court to senior Sergio Diaz who shot the game-winning three. The ball bounced up off the back of the rim, grazing the backboard and falling through the net as what seemed like a cinematic masterpiece.
Indiana University South Bend men’s basketball won the 2020-21 CCAC Conference Championship over No.1 seed Olivet Nazarene.
Up next for the men is Rio Grande Community College at Indiana Wesleyan in the opening round of the 2020-21 NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship. The tip is set for 7:00 p.m. on March 12. If they win, they will play Indiana Wesleyan the following day Saturday, March 13.