EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE)
A 24-3 run in the second half saw Bradley overcome a 17-point deficit to defeat the University of Evansville basketball team by a 56-53 final on Saturday afternoon at the Ford Center.
D.J. Balentine led the Purple Aces (16-8, 6-6 MVC) with 22 points. He shot an efficient 8-of-13 while knocking down five 3-pointers. Blake Simmons finished with nine points while Duane Gibson had 7 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Bradley (8-17, 3-9 MVC) saw Tramique Sutherland score 18 points on a 6-11 day from the floor. He notched five rebounds and was 5-for-6 from the charity stripe.
Evansville came out rolling to open the game, scoring the first 12 points of the day as Balentine hit a pair of triples. The lead eventually reached 18-4 on a Christian Benzon free throw. The Aces were 4/5 to begin the game, including 3-of-3 from long range. Bradley missed their first four shots and had five turnovers before Sutherland got them on the board just over four minutes in.
Following their stellar start to the day, the Aces hit 7 of their final 21 attempts in the half. Midway through the period, both offenses struggled as the teams combined for just four points over the course of 5:37 as UE held a 20-6 lead with just under nine minutes left in the period.
The advantage for the Aces reached as many as 17 at 27-10 before the Braves were able to cut the gap to 14 at the break as Sutherland drained a pair of free throws with two seconds left. Out of the locker room, the Aces looked to be in good shaped as a Balentine jumper gave UE a comfortable 37-20 lead with 17:09 remaining.
That is where the Braves made their run, scoring 24 out of the next 27 points to take their first lead of the game at 44-40. The Braves hit an unbelievable 9 out of 10 shots and all five attempts from outside to change the course of the game. Nate Wells was responsible for two of those triples and eight of those points overall.
Following the rally, the Aces made a stand of their own, scoring the next seven to go up 47-44 with 7:14 remaining. A Duane Gibson shot set UE on the stretch before Balentine recorded the next five. Bradley did not give up as back-to-back Sutherland buckets put the Braves up 50-48 inside of the 2-minute mark.
With 1:12 left on the clock, Gibson hit a pair of clutch free throws to tie it up at 50-50, but Bradley registered the next six as they held on for a 56-53 win.
Evansville finished the day shooting 40.4% while the Braves checked in at an even 42%. Free throw shooting made a big difference as BU was 9/10 and Evansville was 9-of-15.
UE will look to rebound as they squad will be back home on Tuesday evening to face Missouri State. Tip will be at 7:05 p.m. at the Ford Center.