Playing shorthanded for the second time in less than 20 hours, the Indiana University Northwest RedHawks came up on the short end of a 99-79 final in the first-ever Association of Independent Institutions Men’s Post-Season Tournament in the Savannah Gymnasium on Friday. Senior Pete Dunbar, playing his final game at the RedHawk Roost, scored 40 points, and junior Pete Trgovich III notched the thousandth point of his career during the game, finishing with 12 on the night.
The loss to Johnson and Wales University – Denver means that IU Northwest will not play in the NAIA Men’s Division II National Tournament in Missouri next month. But the team is still headed to Pennsylvania next week to compete in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Division I National Tournament. Their first game is Wednesday, March 4, at 12 p.m. local time, and can be heard on Web streaming radio at http://www.uscaahoops.com/listen.html
As for Friday’s contest, cold shooting in the second half doomed the RedHawks, who had played the Johnson and Wales Wildcats to within three points after 20 minutes. IU Northwest hit eight of 16 three-pointers in the first half, four of those from Trgovich.
But after the break, perhaps feeling the effects of playing without two starters the night before and playing one man short in this game, the RedHawks simply couldn’t convert their shots. IU Northwest missed 11 of its first 12 field goal attempts in the second half, allowing the Wildcats to put up a 21-4 run that extended their lead to 20 with 12:47 left to play.
“The guys had nothing left in the second half,” RedHawk coach Pete Trgovich said after the game. “That’s why all the shots were short. They lost their legs; it was all arms.
“It’s really obvious,” he added. “We played a game yesterday without (two starters). They played so hard, and they left everything on the court. And that’s what you should do when it’s a do-or-die situation. If we don’t win yesterday, there is no game today. They did what they had to do. I am so proud of them.”
To be sure, the RedHawks didn’t give up once they were down 20. While Trgovich struggled from behind the arc in the second half, Dunbar took over the offense with a dominating performance that netted him 40 points on the night, including 14-for-23 shooting from the floor and 10-for-14 from the free-throw line.
“Dunbar’s going to get to the rim,” Trgovich said. “That’s his game. But he hit a couple of threes. He hadn’t hit a three all year! Those were his first two threes.”
Friday marked the return of junior Jesse Howell, who had been sidelined during the week with an injury. After missing the RedHawks’ 74-66 win over Marygrove College on Thursday, Howell returned to the court Friday and put up 16 points, including two first-half threes.
“I asked them before we went out there to leave it all on the court, and that’s where it is,” Coach Trgovich said. “They gave everything.”
Having played their last home game of the 2008-09 season, the RedHawks now turn their attention to the USCAA tourney, where they will compete for a national title. Trgovich said he plans to rest his squad over the weekend.
“I’ve got to get them healthy,” he said. “And one of the ways we get healthy is with rest. So I’m actually going to give them two days off.”
The Lady RedHawks will also travel to Pennsylvania for the USCAA tourney. The teams will depart campus at noon on Monday, March 2.
At 11:30 a.m. on Monday, the university will hold a brief pep rally in the Savannah Gymnasium. All members of the campus community are encouraged to attend and celebrate the players’ success by giving them a rousing sendoff. There will be free popcorn, courtesy of the Office of Student Life and Athletics.