By CHRIS STONER
NEW ALBANY —
If you haven’t heard of the Wiley Brown Invitational Tournament, it’s only because some people still refer to it as the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athetlic Conference Tournament.
IU Southeast — under the direction of sixth year head coach Wiley Brown — won its sixth consecutive KIAC Tournament championship Tuesday night at the Southeast Activities Building with a 74-62 win over Asbury.
It was the Grenadiers (27-4) third win over Asbury this season as they earned a berth in the 32-team NAIA Division II National Tournament that begins March 6 in Point Lookout, Mo.
“It feels good,” Brown said of yet another KIAC title. “We had guys that were hurt this year and we didn’t miss a beat. We had guys quit and leave the team for various reasons, but the guys who were out there tonight hung together through it all. I’m so proud of my guys.”
Asbury (20-13) made the tournament host work hard for their trophy.
The Eagles shot 50 percent in the first half and hit six triples en route to a 41-35 halftime lead. Cameron Mitchell — the KIAC Player of the Year — scored 12 in the first 20 minutes to keep IU Southeast close.
“We made some defensive mistakes in the first half and we were lucky to be as close as we were at halftime,” Brown said. “I told the guys that we needed to dig in, keep running, and hopefully they will wear down.”
Mitchell — along with Jake Simpson — led the Grenadiers with 19. Mitchell drained his second three with 10:46 left to give the tournament’s No. 1 seed its first second half lead, 54-52. It was IU Southeast’s first lead since 14-12 at 12:58 in the first half.
The Grenadiers, who have won eight straight games, would not trail the rest of the way.
Asbury seemed to melt under IU Southeast’s relentless 40 minutes of pressure. The Eagles committed 19 turnovers overall and shot just 36 percent in the second half, as the Grenadiers won the second 20 minutes to a 39-21 tune.
“Our key is defensive pressure,” Brown said. “We wore them down. Our defensive rotation in the second half was absolutely magnificant. I’m so proud of these guys.”
IU Southeast will learn its seed and first-round opponent on Wednesday during the NAIA Division II Selection Show.