March 23, 2019 / Vincennes University Trailblazers are NJCAA Champions
HUTCHINSON, Kan. - The Vincennes University men’s basketball
team flexed some muscle and reminded everyone of its status as a
national powerhouse on Saturday.
The Trailblazers handled Ranger 87-77 to win the NJCAA Division
I Men’s Basketball Championship. The Blazers won their fourth national
championship and first since 1972.
In their first national title game appearance since 1986, VU
jumped out to a 23-5 start and the Trailblazers showed off their
school colors of blue and gold on national television. In the process,
VU Men’s Basketball Coach Todd Franklin cemented his place in the
history of one of the nation’s top programs.
“Since ‘72, there have been a lot of great players that have
played at Vincennes,” Franklin said. “We know all those people are
incredibly proud and happy and no longer have to listen to about we
can’t get it done.”
After the Trailblazers were awarded the championship trophy and
cut down the nets, Franklin received the Coach of the Tournament award
and freshman Kevin Osawe was presented with the William B. French Most
Valuable Player Award.
Osawe scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the
Sophomores Keith Clemons and Kevin Kangu were among 12 players
presented with All-Tournament medals.
Clemons collected 17 points and seven assists against Ranger.
Kangu added 14 points and six assists. Sophomore Lony Francis Jr.
scored 10 points before fouling out with 6 minutes 47 seconds left.
The Trailblazers started out on fire in a game that was
broadcast on CBS Sports Network. They were ahead 34-13 midway through
the first half. They led by as many as 22 points before taking a 50-34
lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We came out, played well, and hit shots,” said Franklin, who
has coached the Trailblazers for nine seasons.
Ranger made it a game in the second half. The Rangers’ Keyshaad
Dixon hit a 3-pointer that cut VU’s lead to 63-60 with 7 1/2 minutes remaining.
“The only time they were in the game was the last six or seven
minutes,” Franklin said. “We didn’t have our inside game because our
inside game was on the sideline sitting by me from the middle 20
minutes of the game. Great effort by Ranger, but if we had had our
inside game on the court I don’t think they would have got back on top
of us. We had to fight it off.”
At the 6:19 mark, the Trailblazers were ahead 65-64, but
Franklin wasn’t worried. He recognized his team was poised to close
out the victory and win the national championship.
“You could see that the script flipped,” Franklin said. “It was
we’re not fighting off any more. We are in closure mode. I felt pretty
good about it once you could see it on the floor that we were in
closure mode. We did it this whole tournament. Moberly pushed up on
us. Early in the second half, South Plains pushed up on us. Odessa
pushed up on us in the second half.
“You saw Craig Porter click in, take it to the basket and drop
it off because we needed somebody do that. Then I had George (Dixon)
in there asking for the ball. Osawe wanted the ball. At that moment, I
thought we are going to be all right.”
Clemons buried a 3-pointer to put VU ahead 77-72 with 3:55 to
play. In that last 3:55, the Trailblazers closed the game on a 13-5 run.
Then the celebrating began. The players put on shirts with
“National Champions” printed on them. They cut down the nets, posed
for photographs, signed autographs and kissed the championship trophy.
“Playing with this team has been the best two years of my
life,” Dixon said.
The Trailblazers are now four-time national champions. They won
national titles in 1965, 1970, 1972 and 2019.
VU holds the record for most national championship appearance
with 34. They also hold the record for most consecutive tournament
appearances in the modern era. This season was their seventh straight
trip to the national tournament.
The Trailblazers finish the season with a 34-2 overall record.
VU’s players and coaches will be welcomed home on Sunday with a
celebration at the P.E. Complex around 6 p.m. Check
www.vinu.edu/victory or Blazer 91.1 FM for last-minute details.
Vincennes University Newsroom
MARCIA MARTINEZ, Sports Information Director & University
812-888-4164 office, 314-599-1519 cell,
Department of University Relations, www.vinu.edu/newsroom