March 5, 2019 / No. 2 Trailblazers cruise past Shawnee in postseason opener
INA, Ill. – The second-ranked Vincennes University men’s basketball team opened the postseason with a bang, winning 87-58 over Shawnee in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA Division I District 16 Tournament on Tuesday.
Sophomore Keith Clemons scored a game-high 20 points for the top-seeded Trailblazers at Rend Lake College. Sophomore Lony Francis Jr. added 19 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Sophomore George Dixon contributed 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Freshmen Craig Porter and Kevin Osawe scored 11 points apiece. Osawe and freshman Colton Sandage both finished with five rebounds.
With Tuesday’s victory, the Trailblazers hit the 30-win mark for the third consecutive season. They own a 30-1 overall record heading into the semifinals.
VU and No. 8 seed Shawnee opened the tournament with a contest that began at 2 p.m. EST.
“It’s always an odd game to play in the early afternoon and the first game of the tournament,” VU Hall of Fame coach Todd Franklin said. “I thought our guys came out pretty sharp for that game. We play in it almost every year and it’s a hard game to play. Our guys did a pretty good job and our sophomores, Clemons, Dixon and Francis, were all ready to play. They led us today.”
Dixon scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half. Francis had 11 of his 19 points before halftime. Clemons poured in 11 of his 20 points prior to the break. Those strong first-half efforts helped propel VU to a 44-23 halftime lead.
“We did a pretty good job taking over from the very beginning,” Franklin said. “Defensively we were good. We moved the ball, got some shots early and got a lead. We really controlled it the whole way.
“It was a pretty good performance for day one. Defensively, there was nothing new, but we were a little bit more locked in maybe early in the game than we had been the last time we played Shawnee about a week ago. That kind of set the tone. We probably would have held them below 50 points. We subbed late and had some guys that don’t play a lot in, and they scored a few points against them. We probably could have held them below 50 if we had kept the other guys in the game. Anytime you do that, you’re playing good defense. We were simply getting down and moving our feet. It wasn’t really anything special. Just some effort. When we are locked in defensively, we’re pretty good and today we were pretty locked in for the first 25-30 minutes of the game.”
The Trailblazers, who finished the regular season No. 2 in the Division I national poll, are focused. They have 15 straight victories and are vying for the automatic bid to the national tournament that comes with winning the District 16 tourney. VU has made six consecutive national tournament appearances since 2013, setting the modern-era record.
VU is on to the District 16 tournament semifinals. The Trailblazers will play No. 5 seed Kaskaskia on Wednesday, March 6 at 6 p.m. EST.
Kaskaskia set up its meeting with VU by defeating No. 4 seed Olney Central 94-91 in a quarterfinal Tuesday. Olney Central is the only team that has beaten VU this season.
The Trailblazers defeated Kaskaskia twice in the regular season. They won 98-92 in overtime on Dec. 8 and posted a 70-57 victory on Feb. 9.
“Kaskaskia has played us two good games this year,” Franklin said. “They had a really good win today beating a good Olney team. We’ll have challenges, but today was a good start for us.”
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