Indiana State earns trip to Hinkle for NIT Final Four with victory against Bearcats

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. Robbie Avila connected on a three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:01 remaining to break a 77-77 tie and Indiana State closed out the game from the free throw line as the Sycamores topped visiting Cincinnati in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) Quarterfinal Round, 85-81.

Ticket Information for NIT Final Four: Indiana State advances to the 2024 NIT final four and will play the winner of tomorrow night’s contest between VCU and Utah. The NIT Final Four is hosted by Butler University at Hinkle Fieldhouse with tickets available for purchase online by visiting the Butler Athletics Ticketmaster page or the NCAA NIT site. The NIT Semifinal is scheduled to play on Tuesday, April 2 and the Championship on Thursday, April 4. There is no designated ISU fan block as tickets are only being sold and managed by Butler University and the NCAA.


In a game that featured eight lead changes and nine ties, neither team was able to secure more than a two-possession lead throughout a majority of the contest.


Cincinnati (22-15) built their largest lead of the game at eight points with 16:31 following a Dan Skillings Jr. layup to give the Bearcats the 48-40 lead. The Sycamores (31-6) steadily chipped away at the lead with a 16-8 run capped by back-to-back three-pointers from Ryan Conwell and Jayson Kent to tie the game up at 56-56 with 11:56 to play and setting the stage for an exciting 12 minutes of play inside Hulman Center.


As has been their M.O. this season, the Sycamores went on a second-half run turning a 63-61 deficit into a 74-65 lead with Isaiah Swope and Xavier Bledson both hitting three-pointers to spark a 13-2 run. Jayson Kent turned a fastbreak pass from Bledson into a dunk as ISU built their largest lead of the game with 7:17 to play.


Cincinnati fought their way back into the game behind Simas Lukosius’ three-point shooting as the junior guard connected on a pair of three-pointers, including a big shot from the right wing with 2:54 remaining to tie the game up at 77-77.


Defense took over for the next minute before the Sycamores took advantage of a pair of offensive rebounds, the second which Conwell sent to a wide-open Avila at the top of the key and the sophomore center buried the shot to give Indiana State the 80-77 lead.


ISU took over from the free throw line with Kent and Swope converting 3-of-4 in an attempt to make it a two-possession game. Lukosius gave the Bearcats a last gasp hitting a three-pointer with nine seconds remaining and added a free throw with six seconds left to cut the Indiana State lead down to 83-81.


Bledson secured the late defensive rebound on Lukosius’ missed second free throw and converted two free throws on the other end of the court to secure the Indiana State win.


It was a back-and-forth first half with both teams trading baskets throughout a majority of the opening 20 minutes. Cincinnati went up by five with 7:19 to play on a Skillings Jr. dunk to take the 25-20 lead and the Bearcats pushed the lead to seven at 29-22 on Jizzle James’ layup at the 6:13 mark for the largest lead by either team in the first half.

The Sycamores answered on the other end with Kent and Conwell converting three-pointers on back-to-back possessions, and Conwell added a layup to cut the lead down to 31-30 with 4:28 to play in the first half. 


Jamille Reynolds scored the Bearcats’ final five points of the half, while Swope drove in for a layup as Cincinnati went into the break with the 36-32 lead.


Avila led the Sycamores with 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-8 from the three-point line. The Sycamore center added six assists, primarily on back cuts to Ryan Conwell (18 points, six rebounds) as the Sycamores shot 44.8% (26-of-58) from the floor as a team. Kent did not miss from the floor going 5-of-5 from the floor, 2-of-2 from the three-point line, and 4-of-4 from the free throw line on his way to scoring 16 points and pulling down seven rebounds. Swope was the fourth Sycamore in double-digits with 12 points.


Lukosius scored a game-high 26 points aided by 6-of-14 from the three-point line, while Skillings Jr. posted a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double. James added 21 points on 10-of-23 shooting from the floor to go with a team-high five assists.

News & Notes

  • Indiana State advances to the NIT Final Four for the first time in program history. The Sycamores improve to 31-6 on the year.
  • The Sycamores capped the 2023-24 home schedule with a 16-1 record. The 16 home wins ties for the third-most home wins in program history (1976-77: 17-0, 1977-78: 17-1, 1978-79: 16-0). It is just the fifth time in program history with 15+ home wins (1949-50: 15-5).
  • ISU scored 19 points off 13 Cincinnati turnovers, all coming in the second half.
  • Indiana State scored 22 fastbreak points, scoring 19 of 22 in the second half.
  • For the first time this season, the Sycamores recorded a three-game stretch with 10 or fewer turnovers (10, 10, 8).
  • Tuesday’s victory marked the second time this season Indiana State has won while shooting worse than the opponent (ISU 44.8%, Cincinnati 50.0%; last time: vs. Toledo 11/24/23).
  • Ryan Conwell recorded his second-straight game with no turnovers, his first time this season with back-to-back clean games.
  • Jayson Kent in the NIT is shooting 21-for-26 in the NIT 80.8% (three games).
  • Robbie Avila has recorded at least six assists in each of the three NIT games (7, 7, 6).

Postgame Press Conference Presented by Team Green Law

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