Titans Men’s Basketball Team Meets Adversity Head On
After its historical 2019-20 season came to an abrupt end, Indiana University South Bend men’s basketball and head coach Scott Cooper were ready for a year of uncertainties.
Coming off its first Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Tournament championship in program history and shattering almost every record in the books last season, the Titans saw its campaign come to an unexpected finish when the national tournament was canceled last March due to the pandemic.
Returning most of their squad, the Titans were poised for the 2020-21 season and started the year at 2-0 overall before COVID-19 concerns forced all regional campuses to shut down athletics.
The decision kept Cooper’s team on the sidelines from late November to early February before they received the go-ahead to start practicing again. It is no secret that playing only two games and taking 85 days off would be difficult, but that is not the only challenges that the Titans faced.
Receiving the last spot in the tournament, the 15-seeded Titans played all four post-season games on the road in just seven days to claim its second straight CCAC title.
During the seven-day stretch, the road warriors travelled a combined 872 miles and punched its ticket to the national tournament in dramatic fashion. The Titans rallied from a four-point deficit in the final 24 seconds to beat top-seed and regular-season champions Olivet Nazarene University, 76-75, off a three-pointer by senior Sergio Diaz.
“It meant everything to us,” said Diaz on the championship. “It was a crazy ride and we weren’t even sure we would have a season. We all believed in ourselves and the coaching staff. If given the opportunity to play, we were going to make the most of it and win. That’s what we did.”
The Titans continued its unforgettable season, becoming the only one of three CCAC teams to advance to the second round of the 2020-21 NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship Opening Round.
IU South Bend weathered the RedStorm of Rio Grande (Ohio) by a score of 82-71 for the program’s first victory in the national tournament on March 13 before its unforgettable season came to an end on March 14.
The Titans fell 76-59 to the No. 1 overall seed and host school Indiana Wesleyan University, snapping its 15-game winning streak that dated back to Feb. 5, 2020.
IUSB finished its season 7-1 overall, which is the fewest wins in a single season but also the highest win percentage in school history, all while persevering to overcome the adversities in their path.
With the majority of the experienced roster returning next season, the Titans look to make a statement not only in the conference but in the country and are prepared for whatever challenges they may face.