Despite trading the lead eight times, after trailing the entire first half, the University of Indianapolis men’s basketball team’s season came to a conclusion in the semifinal round of the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Midwest Regional, Sunday, March 16, against the Michigan Tech University Huskies, 82-76.
Down at the half, 33-29, the Greyhounds seized their first lead of the game at the 13:45 mark, with a dunk by redshirt junior guard/forward Brennan McElroy, putting UIndy ahead 43-42. After the Huskies took the lead back by one point on the following possession, senior guard Reece Cheatham gave the Greyhounds their largest lead of the night on their next possession with a 3-pointer, putting UIndy ahead by two points.
Over the next few minutes of the game, UIndy and Michigan Tech continued to trade the lead back and forth in a scoring battle. The Greyhounds saw their last lead of the night, however, following another 3-pointer by Cheatham, with 7:37 remaining, putting UIndy ahead by one point. From that moment on the Huskies took the momentum, never allowing the Greyhounds to seize control for the rest of the game.
As they had done in their previous victory in the quarterfinal round, the Huskies relied on the shooting arms of senior guard Austin Armga, who scored 19 points, and junior guard Ben Stelzer. Stelzer, after scoring no points in the first half, scored 32 of the team’s 49 second-half points to help seal the victory.
Head Men’s Basketball Coach Stan Gouard said that both players were difficult to stop, because they both approached the game with confidence and were able to establish an early rhythm.
“That’s what big-time basketball players do,” he said. “It’s tournament time, and they made big plays.”
Despite the high-scoring performances of Armga and Stelzer, Cheatham still finished with the highest point total, contributing 33 points to UIndy’s final score. The Indianapolis native hit a statistically impressive eight shots from beyond the arc, but the game-leading performance by Cheatham did not prove to be enough to push his team to a victory.
The game was the last for Cheatham and four other Greyhounds who will graduate. Looking back on his career, Cheatham said that he has had a great experience at UIndy.
“I’m just thankful for the opportunity,” he said. “I played professional baseball before this, and I didn’t think that I was going to be doing this at all. This was just a backup plan. My main focus was going back to school, and this is just a bonus [to be] playing basketball. Being a Greyhound was great for me.”
The Greyhounds will return two starters next season, including McElroy and junior Joe Lawson, along with redshirt sophomore Jordan Loyd, who played a key role for UIndy this season as a transfer. McElroy, who began his career with this year’s class but gained an extra year after being redshirted in 2011, said he will miss the seniors who will be departing this year.
“I love them like family. They have been nothing but great to me,” he said. “I have one more year. So I have a ton of stuff to work on, and I am looking forward to next year. But right now, it hurts too bad to even think about next year.”
Gouard shared the same feelings about this year’s group of seniors.
“They put so much work into this season, getting us to this point this year,” he said. “They scratched and clawed all year for each other, trying to get everybody on the same page. You can’t ask for a better group of guys than our five seniors of this basketball team this year.”
The 2013-2014 UIndy men’s basketball team finished the season at 24-5 overall, which was the highest win total in 50 years of the program’s history. UIndy also finished the season ranked No. 12 in the final national top 25 poll, along with a 15-3 finish in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.