UNIONTOWN, Pa. - The Illinois Tech men's basketball team played one of its most exhilirating games of the season en route to a USCAA National Championship game berth. Illinois Tech overcame a huge second half deficit to tie the game at the end of regulation, eventually winning 85-84 in two overtimes over the tournament's top seed, the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
How it Happened
- Both teams struggled to get anything going early. The Scarlet Hawks and Bengals were an identical 29.4% from the floor (5-of-17) over the first 10 minutes of the contest as UMFK lead 13-11.
- The Bengals became the aggressors in the latter part of the first half. UMFK put full-court pressure on the Hawks on defense and ran the floor on offense, opening up a 29-22 advantage with 3:28 left in the half.
- Both Jake Digiorgio and Parker Joncus took charges to stop Bengal fastbreaks over the half's last three minutes. However, Tech was unable to really put a dent into the lead as the Scarlet Hawks trailed 32-24 at intermission.
- The Bengals built the lead to start the second half. UMFK opened it up on a 8-0 run to take a 40-24 lead after four minutes. The lead stretched to as large as 18 (48-30).
- Tech slowly fought back and dwindled the lead down to 11 (56-45) after a flurry of Samuel Rarick baskets. A Digiorgio tip-in got the lead back to single digits and then a Rarick three-pointer cut the lead to eight a few possessions later. Tech continued to fight, eventually cutting the lead to five with two minutes left in the game at 65-60.
- Malik Howze scored Tech's next eight points, allowing the Scarlet Hawks to pull within three at 71-68 with 56 seconds to play.
- Tech got a stop on the next Bengal possession with a Rarick block. Then, Rarick rebounded a Howze miss, leading to a second chance to tie the game before the end of regulation. In fitting fashion, Rarick then hit the game-tying three-pointer with 22 seconds to play. The Scarlet Hawks would force a missed shot to send the game to overtime tied at 71-71.
- The two teams traded baskets to begin the first overtime until the Scarlet Hawks opened up a four point lead after a Joncus three-pointer and Rarick lay-up. The Bengals, however, slowed the game down and got to the line the next two possessions, nailing all four free throws. Both teams missed their final shots of regulation to send the contest to another overtime.
- After a Rarick basket to start the second overtime, the Bengals responded with a three-pointer to take an 84-83 lead with 3:18 to play.
- Neither team would score over the next 3:11. The Scarlet Hawks missed four straight three-point attempts, while the Bengals missed three shots of their own. The drought for both teams ended when Howze made a driving lay-up to take an 85-84 lead with seven seconds left.
- On the other end, the Bengals were fouled shooting a three-point attempt with 0.8 second to play, only to miss the all three attempts from the charity stripe. Tech pulled down the defensive rebound and celebrated its advancement to the USCAA National Championship game.
Scarlet Hawk Standouts
- Howze tied a USCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament record, making seven three-pointers en route to a game high 27 points. In all, he was 10-of-20 from the floor and 7-of-13 from downtown while pulling down eight rebounds and chipping in nine assists.
- Rarick's scored 18 points in second half and the overtime periods to finish with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocked shots. He was a perfect 4-of-4 from three-point range, which ties the USCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament record for most three-pointers made without a miss.
- Digiorgio played 41 minutes off the bench and finished with a double-double of 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Stats to Know
- The Scarlet Hawks broke a USCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament record with 15 three-pointers made.
- Tech dominanted the glass, winning the rebounding advantage 58-46.
- The two teams were almost identical from the floor. Tech was at 41.2% (38-of-85), while the Bengals were at 41.3% (31-of-75).
- The Scarlet Hawks won despite shooting three free throws for the entire game, making none of them. Maine-Fort Kent was 19-of-31 on free throws.
- The Scarlet Hawks will play in the USCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship game on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. eastern time (11:30 a.m. central time). Tech will take on #2 Concordia College-Alabama. Live audio, video, and stats will be available courtsey of the USCAA.