Freshman D.J. Balentine scored a game-high 16 points as the University of Evansville men's basketball team earned its first win of the season, taking down Yale by a final of 66-56 on Friday evening at the Ford Center.
Balentine was 6-of-11 from the field while scoring the most for a UE (1-2) freshman since Jordan Jahr did so in his freshman campaign. Jahr had a solid night for the Aces, tallying 12 while Lewis Jones and Ryan Sawvell each had 10.
"We played with a lot of energy and effort," UE head coach Marty Simmons said. "Yale is a very good, well-coached team. Our guys came out with a great effort tonight."
After a defensive battle marked the beginning of Thursday's game versus Buffalo, Evansville hit seven of its first 13 shots on its way to a 21-13 lead. Freshman D.J. Balentine was the star early on, hitting four-consecutive buckets for the Aces to cap off the run in the opening eight minutes of the period. His jumper at the 13-minute mark was the first two-pointer of his career. His three previous shots were all treys at Notre Dame.
Later in the half, it was Jordan Jahr who took control of the offense, notching three of Evansville's four buckets over a two-minute span to give the Aces a 32-25 edge. Justin Sears, who had 11 first-half points for Yale, led the Bulldogs on a 6-0 run to finish the half as they trailed UE, 32-31, at the break.
Ryan Sawvell led Evansville out of halftime, notching six points in the first five minutes as Evansville hit seven of its first ten shots of the half to take a 46-38 lead. Jahr hit a pair of buckets as he hit double figures for the first time since scoring 12 at UIC last November.
Down by eight, the Bulldogs fought back with a 10-0 stretch as they retook the lead at 48-46. Jesse Pritchard had three points before Sam Martin capped off the stretch with a trey with 12 minutes left in the contest. Lewis Jones ended the stretch with free throw before two more from the charity stripe helped UE retake the lead at 49-48.
The lead changed hands seven times leading to a 55-54 lead for Evansville inside of five minutes to play. A pair of free throws by Jones, coupled with Balentine's sixth field goal, helped Evansville reestablish its edge at 59-54 just over a minute later.
After a Yale bucket, a game-changer came at the hands of Ned Cox, who banked in a three with the shot clock running out to give Evansville a 62-56 advantage. The Aces would extend the lead before finishing up with the 66-56 victory.
Justin Sears led Yale with 15 points and a game-high seven boards. Austin Morgan finished the night with 13.
Evansville had its top shooting night of the season, hitting 46.9% of its attempts. Jahr led the way with an efficient 5-for-7 outing. The Aces had six blocks, including three by Egidijus Mockevicius; its season mark a year ago was five versus Indiana.
Tomorrow, UE will wrap up the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, facing Western Illinois at 7:35 p.m. at the Ford Center.
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