BY MIKE RILEY
NEW ALBANY —
Getting off to a great start in both halves was the recipe for victory as No. 1 seed IU Southeast advanced to the finals of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament with a 91-61 victory over Cincinnati Christian on Monday at the IUS Activities Center. The Grenadiers will play Asbury in tonight’s championship game at 6.
IUS coach Wiley Brown had reason to be concerned after the Grenadiers got off to a slow start in their previous game, a near upset at the hands of No. 8 seed Alice Lloyd.
After leading by just 9-7 in the early going, those concerns were put to rest as IUS (26-4) held the Golden Eagles to just three field goals over a nearly nine-minute span, while shooting 49 percent. The Grenadiers built a 42-28 halftime lead with Kevin Mitchell coming off the bench to hit 6-of-8 shots including two 3-pointers to total 16 points.
Cincinnati Christian (16-16) had given IUS its last loss of the season, 69-63 on Feb. 5. So despite leading by 12 points at the break, that was the basis of Brown’s halftime speech.
“What I told them was that they knew they beat us the last time we played, that they knew they could beat us and that they weren’t going to quit,” Brown said.
The Grenadiers came out firing to start the second half, scoring 15 of their first 17 points from behind the 3-point arc as they built the lead to 59-40 on a 3-pointer by Matt Trimnell, his third of the second half and fifth of the game.
D.J. McCommons answered for the Golden Eagles and was fouled, but failed to convert the three-point play. IUS then iced the game with a 12-0 run that gave it a 71-42 lead.
From there, it wasn’t how, but by how many points IUS was going to win by?
“The quick start really surprised me because I had changed my starting lineup for disciplinary reasons,” Brown said. “Matt Trimnell played a great game and the guys off the bench, the Mitchell brothers [Kevin and Cameron] really gave us a spark. It was good to see that.
“We shot 57 percent from the field (34-of-59) and 52 percent (11-of-21) from 3-point range. We took open shots and played great defense. It was a great team effort.”
Kevin Mitchell led five Grenadiers in double figures with 25 points. Trimnell added 19, Cameron Mitchell had 14, Jeffersonville High School graduate Terrence Billups added 11 and Jake Simpson had 10.
McCommons had 17 to lead Cincinnati Christian. Kenny Gaynor added 16, but the Grenadiers limited the 6-foot-7 freshman star to just four rebounds and completely shut him out on the defensive board. IUS won the boards, 34-23.
“We were going to harass him (Gaynor) all night,” Brown said. “We doubled up on him when he got the ball. Everything he got tonight he earned.”
Now IUS will be faced with the task of beating a team three times in a season as it already owns two victories over Asbury, a knock-down, drag-out 97-92 double-overtime victory in New Albany. Then 10 days ago, things went a bit easier in a 85-70 road victory on Feb. 16.
“Asbury is a great team,” Brown said. “They’ve got three bigs that can play and they shoot the ball well. It will be a tough matchup.”
Brown didn’t mention the two players involved in the disciplinary action, but said it was no big deal.
“No, it’s no suspension or anything like that,” he said. “We had two guys late for a practice. They know if they’re not 15 minutes early, then they’re late. They know that. They apologized to their teammates and we’ll go on.”
In early Monday afternoon action, Asbury (20-12) advanced to championship game with an 87-68 victory over IU East.
C.J. Penney led Asbury with 32 points. Former Kentucky recruit Dakota Euton added 19 points and 14 rebounds. Adam Delph had 12 points, while Mitch McLeish added 11.
Huston Clark led IU East with 16 points, Vasha Davis added 14 points and former Floyd Central star Cody Banet finished with 11 points as he hit on 3-of -4 from 3-point range.