EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE)
Wichita State's defense held the Purple Aces to a season-low 30% shooting as the Shockers defeated the University of Evansville basketball team by a 61-41 final in front of 7,015 fans at the Ford Center on Saturday.
D.J. Balentine finished with 16 points to lead the Aces (13-5, 3-3 MVC). He knocked down six shots while hauling in five rebounds. He was the lone double digit scorer for UE. Ron Baker and Darius Carter led Wichita State (16-2, 6-0 MVC) with 18 points apiece. Carter chipped in a game-high 11 rebounds to help the Shockers finish with a 39-26 edge in that department.
Evansville shot just 33.3% in the first half as the Shockers entered the halftime break up 28-18. It was a close match up early on despite Wichita State taking an early 9-4 lead. The Aces roared right back as a D.J. Balentine layup was followed by a Mislav Brzoja triple tied the game up at 9-9 just over five minutes into the game.
From that point on, the Shockers held the Aces in check leading to the break. Wichita State outscored Evansville by a 19-9 margin. Six Shockers found their way onto the scoresheet, led by seven Ron Baker points. They held the Purple Aces scoreless over the course of 9:12 as they opened up a 28-15 lead. Balentine salvaged the final possession of the first half, knocking down a triple with five seconds remaining to cut the gap to ten.
The offense for the Shockers was cranking in the opening minutes of the second half as they connected on 5 of their first 7 attempts on their way to their largest lead of the day to that point - 43-24. Evansville started the half 2-for-9 from the floor. A Balentine bucket ended the stretch just over five minutes into the period.
WSU's lead reached as many as 23 points (51-28) with 8:41 left, but the Aces made a late push. They got within 14 at 53-39 inside of the 5-minute mark, but the Shockers were able to hang on.
Evansville's 30% shooting marked its lowest output at the Ford Center. The Aces 41 points was the least scored by the team since Feb. 16, 2008 in a 76-38 loss at Missouri State and the lowest home scoring since January 26, 2002 when the Aces fell by a 57-41 final to Creighton.
With its MVC record at an even 3-3, the Aces look to make their push as two of the next three games will be at home. Following a Wednesday trip to Loyola, UE is back at the Ford Center to face Southern Illinois on Jan. 24 before playing host to Indiana State on the 27th. Fans are reminded that a full weekend of events will be taking place next weekend as the 1964-65 NCAA Championship Team that went 29-0 will be recognized. A full release will be posted early next week highlighting those events.