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Lady Blue Knights even record with win, men fall to DI Chicago State; conference changes for next year's sports

After manning the starting center position for four standout seasons, Urbana University senior Andrea Vogel became just the eleventh Blue Knight in the program’s 38-year history to reach 1,000 career points in a thrilling Senior Day victory over visiting Central State University on Saturday afternoon. Junior point guard DeVonyea Johnson knocked down a pair of free throws with 0.2 seconds left on the clock as the Blue Knights defeated their conference rival 78-76.

Urbana raced out to a 41-29 first half lead on the strength of Kate Francisco’s 15 points, but the Lady Marauders mounted an impressive comeback in the second half. 

A 16-2 run early in the second half helped the visitors turn a 12-point deficit into a 2-point advantage. From the 16-minute mark in the second half, neither team’s lead extended beyond four points.

Point 1,000 for Vogel came at a crucial moment in the game. With the scored tied at 65 with under five minutes to play, Vogel was fouled. Sitting at 999 career points, the 6-2 center sank the first free throw for the milestone and the lead. Already the all-time career blocks leader at UU, Vogel finished with 9 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocks.

After a brief stoppage of play to celebrate the moment, the Blue Knights still had to fend off a feisty Marauder squad. A Shakiera Lang three with 43 ticks left on the clock gave the visitors a 76-74 lead. DeVonyea Johnson drew a foul on the Blue Knights’ next trip down the court. She calmly sank both free throws to tie the game at 76.

Central State had the ball and an opportunity to hold for the final shot, but the Marauders turned it over with 5.6 seconds to play. Francisco’s steal at half court set up an opportunity for Urbana to win it in regulation. After a timeout, Urbana inbounded the ball to Johnson at half court. With a running start, the point guard slashed through the lane and drew a blocking call at the basket with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. Like she had on Urbana’s last possession, Johnson calmly sank both free throws to ice the win.

Francisco led all scorers with a career-high 29. The sophomore added 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in the win. Fellow sophomore Ciara Geiger tallied 19 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds. The G-MAC’s leading scorer and three-point shooter nailed 5 of 10 attempts from behind the arc, including four three-pointers in the second half. Johnson’s four clutch free throws gave her 8 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists for the game, and another Blue Knight senior shined on Senior Day. Jessica Saffold played nearly every second of the game, finishing with 5 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists.

The win is Urbana’s fifth straight, allowing the Blue Knights to climb back to .500 after an 8-13 start. The victory also sets the stage for next Saturday’s season finale between Urbana and Trevecca Nazarene University. Urbana will travel to Nashville for a matchup between teams tied atop the standings with identical 6-1 conference records. The G-MAC’s regular season title, a one-seed in the conference tournament and the right to host the conference semifinals and championship game are all on the line. The Blue Knights dealt TNU their only conference loss, a 71-59 decision, back on February 2nd in Urbana. Before that game though, the Blue Knights will host Notre Dame College on Tuesday night in the Grimes Center. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m.  Urbana’s last loss came on the road to the Falcons back on January 26th. Notre Dame held off the Blue Knights 69-62.

Late Charge Sends Chicago State Past Blue Knights

One year after scoring its first win over a Division I opponent, the Urbana University men’s basketball team fell just short of back-to-back wins over that same squad from Chicago State University. The Cougars avenged last year’s 59-55 loss to the D-II Blue Knights by pulling out a late 82-74 victory at home on Saturday afternoon.

Urbana led 43-39 at the half, and the Blue Knights maintained their lead until a Cougar three-pointer knotted the score at 70 with five minutes to play. The game-tying three sparked a 15-4 Cougar run to end the game.

Chicago State owned a 42-26 advantage in points in the paint, and the Cougar bench outscored Urbana’s bench 28-9. Despite the loss, several Blue Knights turned in strong individual performances against their D-I opponent. Senior Armond Battle, who played two seasons of D-I basketball at Wright State University, finished with a game-high 26 points before fouling out late. Junior guard Danny Goins added 18 points and a career-high 6 assists, and senior guard Ramel Mitchell tacked on 14 points and 6 boards. 

Urbana falls to 10-16 overall with the loss. Chicago State improves to 8-18. Urbana stays on the road for its next two contests, starting with a Wednesday night clash with their future conference foes from Notre Dame College. The Falcons defeated the Blue Knights 96-87 in Urbana earlier this year.  Wednesday’s tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. in South Euclid, Ohio.

New Conference news

The Mountain East Conference (MEC) announced today that its application for membership has been approved by the NCAA Division II Membership Committee. The MEC will officially become the 25th NCAA Division II conference on Sept. 1, 2013 and immediately assumes active status.

“This is a very exciting time for the Mountain East Conference and our 12 charter institutions,” MEC Commissioner Reid Amos said. “Every one of our schools has great history, great tradition and now a great future as an MEC member. It has been an exhilarating experience to be a part of the formation of a group of like-minded institutions that has laid a strong foundation for a long and successful association.”

The 12 charter members of the nation’s newest NCAA Division II regional all-sports league include nine West Virginia institutions – Concord University, Fairmont State University, Glenville State College, Shepherd University, The University of Charleston, West Liberty University, West Virginia State University, Wheeling Jesuit University, and West Virginia Wesleyan College – along with Notre Dame College and Urbana University from Ohio and the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

The formal application process was extremely detailed – the final application document totaled nearly 200 pages when it was filed in December 2012 – but Amos said all that hard work proved to be a blessing in disguise.

“The NCAA Division II membership process was very valuable to us in a number of ways,” he said. “It almost served as a step-by-step guide to organizing a model NCAA Division II conference and really helped our presidents and athletic directors crystallize a strategic plan – a vision – for our collective future. I’m very grateful to our presidents and athletic directors for their great input throughout the process and I’d also like to express my appreciation for the guidance provided by Oliver and Lindemenn Consulting.”

The MEC expects to crown conference champions in 16 sports during its first season of operation: men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, men’s and women’s cross country, football, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s track and field, and volleyball.

As a new conference, the MEC’s conference champions won’t be able to receive automatic NCAA Tournament bids during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years but the eligibility of all MEC institutions for at-large bids to NCAA championship play will be unaffected throughout the period.

“A highly-competitive conference supports the high-quality experience that we are committed to creating for every one of our student-athletes,” Amos said. “Ultimately, we expect our new affiliation will create increased opportunities for NCAA Tournament participation in every one of our 16 NCAA Championship sports.”

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