INDIANAPOLIS – Trailing by two points with 55 seconds left, IUPUI needed a stop. They forced a long three-point attempt and D.J. McCall got the rebound with 21 seconds to go. In front of 1,377 fans, on Senior Day and in season’s home finale, they’d get one more chance to win or force a third overtime. Only, they didn’t get another chance. McCall stumbled after grabbing the contested rebound and fell to the floor. He passed the ball as his knee hit the ground, but the official called a travelling violation and IUPUI wouldn’t recover.
Marcellus Barksdale was one of four IUPUI players to score in double figures and led the team with 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting. He also added five assists and four rebounds. Aaron Brennan scored 14 points on just five shots. P.J. Boutte finished with 13 points and eight rebounds and Mason Archie added 11 points.
Both Khufu Najee and DavRon Williams started on Senior Day for IUPUI, but after winning the tip, the Jaguars had to call a timeout to get Najee out of the game. He couldn’t stay in with his injury, but left to a standing ovation after shaking hands with the official and hugging his coaches and teammates. Williams played just 23 minutes since he fouled out late in regulation and finished with four points and three rebounds.
“Just very proud of them,” head coach Jason Gardner said. “two guys that got their degrees, been leaders since I’ve been here. Khufu’s made big shots, DavRon’s made big effort plays, energy plays. Taking over, you couldn’t ask for two better guys on and off the court.”
With IUPUI trailing by 14 points and 13:54 to go in the game, it looked like the seniors’ final game would come to an unceremonious end, but Barksdale’s words after their win Thursday night would ultimately ring true.
“Every game here is coming down to the wire no matter how it starts. No matter how it plays out, them last two minutes are going to be a dogfight.”
Over the next 5:17, IUPUI closed the gap with a 16-5 run to pull within three points, 62-59. Omaha pushed the lead back up to five points, 66-61, but a pair of free throws each for Aaron Brennan and P.J. Boutte, as well as a jumper from Brennan, gave IUPUI their first lead since early in the first half.
Devin Patterson hit a 3-pointer on the next possession to give a 71-69 lead to Omaha, and IUPUI went just 2-for-4 from the free-throw line to close out regulation and force overtime.
IUPUI struck first in overtime. Barksdale was fouled a little over a minute in and knocked down both free throws for a 73-71 advantage. While the Jaguars held Omaha to just two points during a stretch of over seven minutes spanning regulation and overtime, they couldn’t capitalize past Barksdale’s free throws. They shot 0-for-8 in the overtime period and Omaha’s lone basket with 1:23 left forced a second overtime.
“We got stops,” Gardner said. “We got some good looks at the rim. We just didn’t make them.”
Again IUPUI struck first, this time with a 3-pointer from Mason Archie, but again the Jaguars went cold. After trading baskets for a 78-75 lead, Omaha scored seven straight. Patterson came up with a steal that led to a Tre’Shawn thurman 3-pointer with 1:31 to go. IUPUI turned the ball over for the second possession in a row and the fast break led to a dunk from C.J. Carter.
Down 82-78, Barksdale made a pair of free throws to pull within two. Then came the stop, the rebound and the travel.
With the regular season behind them, IUPUI will prepare for the conference tournament in Sioux Falls. They’ll play either Saturday March 7 at 9:30 p.m. or Sunday March 8 at 9:30 pm depending on the outcome of the Denver and Oral Roberts game.