EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - A layup with just one second remaining helped Murray State earn an 81-79 victory over the University of Evansville basketball team on Saturday afternoon at the Ford Center.
The Purple Aces (7-2) battled back from a 7-point deficit with 6:25 remaining to tie the game up in the late moments of the contest. The Racers (6-4) forced a pair of late turnovers before converting on the final possession.
Setting a season mark for Evansville was D.J. Balentine. The junior finished with 31 points as he connected on 13 of his 15 free throw attempts. He was one of four UE players in double figures, joined by Egidijus Mockevicius, who tallied 12 to go along with a game-high 14 rebounds. Mislav Brzoja and Blake Simmons chipped in 11 apiece.
Evansville got off to a quick 4-0 start in the game as Blake Simmons and Duane Gibson got UE on the board in the first two minutes. The first tie of the game came just over five minutes in as T.J. Sapp knocked down back-to-back triples to knot it up at 10-10.
Three minutes later, a Cameron Payne free throw gave MSU its first advantage of the day at 18-17. Murray State held the advantage until four D.J. Balentine tallies in a row tied the score at 30-30 with 3:15 remaining in the period.
The final minutes of the half provided some fireworks. Murray State started it off with a 10-3 stretch as they took a 40-33 lead. Payne, who had 20 in the half, notched all ten of those points. A pair of double technicals with 38 seconds remaining led to several free throws being made. The result was a 42-35 Racer lead. With just three ticks on the clock, Balentine cut the halftime gap to four with his first trey of the day.
Just as they did in Tuesday's win at Belmont, the Aces roared back in the second period. Four quick points tied the game up at 42-42 before a layup by Simmons put the lead back in the hands of the Aces.
Murray State responded with a 14-6 stretch that saw them match their largest lead of eight points (56-48) with 12:30 left in the game. Justin Seymour capped the run off with a three. Evansville made its way back over the next four minutes, going up by a 63-61 tally as Balentine notched eight points in the run.
Once again, the Racers had an answer, going on a 9-0 run as three more triples found the bottom of the net. Another one by Seymour gave MSU a 70-63 lead inside of the 7-minute mark. Slowly, but surely, Evansville showed that it had another run left. A Simmons trey got the UE deficit back within a possession at 73-70 with 4:38 left. With 2:06 remaining, Adam Wing hit a shot to get Evansville within a point at 75-74.
With just 36 ticks left on the clock, Balentine hit both free throws to complete the comeback and tie the game up at 79-79. That is where things got interesting. With six seconds left, a Payne miss gave the ball back to UE. On the inbound pass, the Aces threw the ball out of bounds, resulting in the Racers getting the ball underneath their own basket with 2.6 seconds left. Jonathan Fairell hit a layup on the pass in bounds to give MSU the win.
Both teams shot well on the day as MSU finished at an even 50% while the Aces were just behind at 49.1%. The big difference came from outside as Murray State was 11-of-19 to finish at 57.9% while UE checked in at 4-of-14.
Evansville looks to put the loss in the rearview mirror on Thursday when Ohio University comes to the Ford Center. Tip is slated for 8:05 p.m. and is the second game of a doubleheader with the women.