Late run by Pirates sink ISU in NIT final game

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Late run by Pirates sink ISU in NIT final game

Photo by Travis David | Indiana State's Robbie Avila makes a drive towards the hoop during Thursday night's NIT championship game against Seton Hall. Avila scored 13 points and was named to the all-tournament team.
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INDIANAPOLIS — With each significant win over the past two months, this year’s Indiana State men’s basketball team couldn’t be mentioned without also referencing the 1979 team led by Larry Bird.


Unfortunately, Thursday night proved to be more of the same. Just like the famous ‘79 squad, the 2023-24 Sycamores could not close out their magical season with a win.


Seton Hall scored the final nine points to send the Sycamores to a heart-breaking 79-77 loss in the NIT championship game inside historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.


With the loss, Indiana State wraps up the season with a 32-7 record, one win shy of tying the program record of 33 set by the Bird’s ‘79 team.


With just under three minutes left on the clock, the Sycamores appeared to be heading to winning their first ever NIT championship. Isaiah Swope walked into a three-pointer from the left left wing, giving the Sycamores a 77-70 lead.


Unfortunately for ISU it would be the last made shot of the game and season.


Seton Hall scored on each of its next four possessions including a drive by Dre Davis with 16 seconds left for the game-winning shot.


After a timeout by ISU with 8.4 seconds left on the clock, the Sycamores missed two more shots at the win. The first was blocked by Jaden Bediako before a desperation heave at the buzzer by Ryan Conwell from 35 feet.


“Those guys in the locker room are gutted right now,” Indiana State coach Josh Schertz said of his players following the loss. “When you get to this game you have to be willing to take the chance of having your heart broken and our hearts are broken right now. But those guys gave it everything they had.”


The Sycamores’ head coach also gave credit to the Pirates.


“They are a really good team and they brought the heart and the fight down the stretch,” he said. “We probably could have played better and I could have coached better, but you have to give them credit as well. They are very deserving champions.”


Schertz also didn’t fault his team for not being more patient on offense on their final four possessions with the lead.


“We had some good looks, they just didn’t fall for us,” the ISU coach said. “And they guys who took those shots, I would want them to take them again … I will live with that. But we didn’t get stops on four straight possessions either and you have to do it on both ends, not just one.”


Seton Hall led for most of the first half including an 11-point bulge. But the Sycamores scored the final 11 of the half to enter the locker room tied at 39.


Indiana State’s Jake Wolfe reacts after making a basket and getting fouled on a play in the first half against Seton Hall Thursday night.


The Pirates also grabbed a 9-point lead in the second half only to see ISU make another charge.


A floater by Swope pulled ISU even at 53 with just over 13 minutes on the clock.


Seton Hall went back ahead by five points only to see the Sycamore score six straight. Julian Larry capped the run with a corner three, giving the Sycamores a 63-62 lead with 8:33 to play for their first lead since midway through the first half.


The two teams traded buckets until ISU used an 8-0 run for the seven point lead.


Swope led four Sycamore players in double figures with 19 points. Larry added 18 points and six assists, while Robbie Avila and Jayson Kent both scored 13 points. 


Al-Amir Dawes scored a game-high 24 points to pace the Pirates, while Kadary Richmond (21) and Dre Davis (18) combined for 39 points.


Conwell and Avila were named to the all-tournament team for the Sycamores, while Dawes, Richmond and Davis were selections for Seton Hall. 


Dawes was named the MVP of the tournament.


Near the end of the Indiana State press conference, Schertz was asked about his future.


“I don’t want to keep people twisting in the wind, so I will make that decision by the end of the weekend,” the Sycamores’ coach said. “It’s been a great run, but tonight is not the time to make that decision.” 


Schertz has been coveted by higher profile programs for a good part of the last month, most notably by Saint Louis University.

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