INDIANAPOLIS, In. – With just two games remaining in the season, IUPUI seems to be hitting their stride. With their 74-67 win over Oakland Monday night, they’ve won three of their last four games.
Evan Hall’s double-double three nights ago was a major reason the Jaguars won in overtime. He delivered again against Oakland with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Sometimes Hall can be a liability because of his free-throw shooting, but he went 3-for-5 from the line and the Jaguars finished 14-for-18. Most of the damage there was from Aaron Brennan who went 7-for-7 and finished with a team-high 18 points.
D.J. McCall had a big first half and was a major reason that IUPUI was down just three at the break. He scored eight points in the half and got to the rim multiple times. It wasn’t surprising then to realize after IUPUI had gone scoreless for almost four minutes that McCall had gotten subbed out shortly after the Jaguars took their 20-15 lead.
The rest of the team picked up the intensity in the second half though and quickly took the lead for good. Ron Patterson hit a three-point basket on IUPUI’s second possession and Hall scored at the rim the next time down the court to go up two. A couple of minutes later the Jaguars scored layups on consecutive possessions including a foul on the latter one forcing a timeout. Brennan hit the free throw out of the timeout to give IUPUI their largest lead of eight points.
While IUPUI never relinquished the lead after the 16:53 mark in the second half, the real test came in the final minutes. Leading by four with under two minutes to go, Oakland picked up the pace and started to pressure IUPUI more. Throughout the season this has led to long scoreless stretches and general careless play for the Jaguars. When teams pressuring IUPUI fouled, IUPUI didn’t punish them at the line either. They’ve ranked near the bottom for all D-I teams in free-throw shooting all year.
Against Oakland though, they sealed the deal. Brennan hit a contested jumper in the paint to go back up six. Two possessions later Oakland pressed full court, but fouled McCall who made both free throws. With 36 seconds left and the lead again at four, Jaylen Minnett was fouled and hit both free throws. Brennan drew the foul on each of IUPUI’s next two possessions and went 4-for-4 at the line. In the final minute IUPUI went 8-for-8 from the line and the only turnover was during a hectic back and forth play immediately following a steal from McCall.
Just prior to this four-game stretch, IUPUI lost five in a row. They’d struggled to win on the road all season. But during this stretch, they’ve been bucking a few trends. Despite a 1-14 road record entering Friday’s contest against Milwaukee, the Jaguars won in overtime. The Jaguars were just 2-14 when trailing at the half, but they came back and beat Oakland. They won despite a nearly four-minute scoreless stretch in the first half, something that plagued them and cost them multiple games earlier in the season. And, they closed out the game at the line.
IUPUI still has two remaining games. Although both are at home, the Jaguars will take on the two best teams in the Horizon League, Wright State and Northern Kentucky. It’s been nearly two months since the first meeting with either team, but they’ll be looking for revenge. IUPUI didn’t crack the 60-point mark against either of them and lost both games. First comes Wright State this Friday at a special early 11 A.M. tip.