March 21, 2019 / Trailblazers back in Final Four
HUTCHINSON, Kan. - The Vincennes University men’s basketball team is in the Final Four for the second straight season.
The third-seeded Trailblazers won 72-60 against sixth-seeded Odessa (Texas) in a NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship quarterfinal on Thursday at Hutchinson Sports Arena.
In addition to celebrating a big win against Odessa, the Trailblazers celebrated a couple career milestones.
VU Men’s Basketball Coach Todd Franklin reached a milestone with the quarterfinal victory. He earned his 600th career win. Franklin’s career record over 22 years is 600-138. In nine seasons at VU, he has produced a 270-41 record.
Sophomore Lony Francis Jr. also hit a milestone. He became the 39th VU player to surpass 1,000 career points. He has 1,004 career points after scoring 10 against Odessa.
The Trailblazers, who have a 32-2 record, want to do lot more celebrating.
In the semifinal round on Friday, VU plays defending national champion South Plains (Texas) at 8 p.m. EDT. It’s a matchup between the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds and the winner advances to the championship game airing Saturday afternoon on CBS Sports Network.
VU made its last national title game appearance in 1986 when it finished as the runner-up.
In the 2018 semifinals, the Trailblazers fell to Southern Idaho.
To keep the 2019 season going, the Trailblazers had to fend off a pesky Odessa team in the second half.
“They threw a punch,” Franklin said. “We took a punch. I thought we missed a few shots by the basket that we would normally make and they hit a couple shots. They have a good defense. They’re long. They’re physical. They’re tough.”
It was a tale of two halves.
“In the first half we were more aggressive,” freshman Craig Porter said. “Coach told us we needed to be the dominant team and throw the first punch.
“In the second half, we got too comfortable. We let up and let them come back, and throw a couple of jabs at us.”
The Trailblazers dominated the first half and 10 different VU players scored. They raced to a 9-0 lead, while Odessa missed its first seven shots from the field. By halftime, the Trailblazers were ahead 40-21.
In the second half, Porter snagged a steal and made the ensuing layup for a 45-30 lead with 16 minutes, 13 seconds remaining.
Odessa sank a couple 3-pointers to cut the Trailblazers’ lead to eight points with 12:51 left.
Freshman Kevin Osawe sank a free throw and VU was up 59-48 at the 5:04 mark.
A layup by Odessa’s Aquarn Butler made it 59-50 with 4:45 remaining.
The Trailblazers answered by tightening the defense and knocking down shots for a 7-0 scoring run.
Francis tossed in a layup for a 66-50 VU lead at the 1:53 mark.
VU was in control the rest of the way.
“We stayed tight and made sure we talked on defense,” Francis said.
Francis was one of three players who finished in double figures.
Porter collected 11 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal.
Sophomore Keith Clemons had a strong effort against Odessa and finished with a game-high 17 points. He struggled in Wednesday’s second-round win against Moberly and scored only four points.
“Today was a bounce back game,” Clemons said. “Today I was looking to attack. Wednesday I wasn’t being as aggressive.
“I just want to be out there to be a leader and encourage my teammates to all play good. It felt good. We got the win. The team was happy. Everybody’s happy.”
The Trailblazers play 2018 national champion South Plains in the second semifinal on Friday. The first semifinal between No. 8 seed Ranger and No. 4 seed Coffeyville tips off at 6 p.m. EDT.
“We’re excited,” Franklin said. “South Plains is a massive challenge, but the team we just played beat South Plains twice in the regular season. We can play with them.
“It should be a classic. The last time we played them (in 2017) it was a classic. They were No. 1 in the country and they beat us on a 35-footer. I would imagine it would be similar (Friday) night and hopefully it’s us who comes out on top.”
Vincennes University Newsroom
Vincennes University Trailblazer Athletics
MARCIA MARTINEZ, Sports Information Director & University Life Reporter
812-888-4164 office, 314-599-1519 cell, VUNews@vinu.edu, firstname.lastname@example.org
VINCENNES UNIVERSITY, Department of University Relations, www.vinu.edu/newsroom