EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE)
After scoring just four points in the first half, junior D.J. Balentine erupted for 18 in the second period and overtime, but three Illinois State players hit double digits as the Redbirds earned a 69-67 overtime win over the University of Evansville men's basketball team on Saturday afternoon at the Ford Center.
With today's results, the Aces (19-11, 9-9 MVC) and Redbirds (19-11, 11-7 MVC) will meet again on Friday at Arch Madness in St. Louis.
Balentine hit 9 of his 20 attempts to lead all players with his 22 tallies. Adam Wing knocked down 11 out of 12 free throws to register 15 points. Jaylon Brown hit four buckets to tally eight points. He also led UE with three assists.
Leading the Redbirds was DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, who tallied 16 points while tying for the game high with nine rebounds. Reggie Lynch and Paris Lee posted 12 points apiece.
The defense of the Purple Aces played well in the early minutes, forcing the Redbirds into misses in its first four trips down the floor while also garnering a turnover. After its early struggles, Illinois State got its game rolling, hitting four of its next five shots to take its first lead at 9-8 on a Deontae Hawkins three.
With ISU up 13-10, they got five more from Paris Lee. Lee hit a triple before forcing a steal on the next trip for UE. He was fouled on his ensuing shot and hit both of the free throws.
Evansville was stuck in a field goal drought that was 0-for-7 and 1-12 before D.J. Balentine hit his first shot of the game with just over eight minutes left to bring UE back within five at 18-13. Blake Simmons was fouled on an over the back on ISU's next offensive possession and hit two free throws to make it a 3-point game.
A 9-2 stretch was capped off by Balentine as he hit his second shot of the game to make it a 20-19 game in favor of the Redbirds. ISU responded with a pair of buckets to push their lead back to five. The Aces held the Redbirds to just 1 of their final 6 from the field to cut the gap to four at the break. Both squads shot under 39% in the frame while the Redbirds finished with a 27-17 edge in rebounding in the opening stanza.
Illinois State hit four of its first six shots out of the break to match their largest lead of eight at 40-32 just over four minutes into the half. Their defense held the Aces in check as UE was 1-for-6 over that stretch. Evansville got its offense rolling, making four out of five shots, but Illinois State dominated the offensive glass and continued to lead by eight at 48-40 midway through the period.
The Redbirds continued to lead by eight with 7:57 remaining at 52-44. That is where the Aces made the game-changing run. They scored 11 in a row to go up 55-52. Balentine nailed a three and a pair of free throws before Egidijus Mockevicius hit a layup with five minutes left to give the Aces their first lead since the opening minutes at 53-52.
Reggie Lynch ended the rally with a layup before UE went up by three once again at 57-54. Daishon Knight knotted it up with a triple. Evansville would take two more leads, the latest being 59-57 in the final seconds as Adam Wing calmly knocked down a pair of free throws. Off an inbound, Purcell hit a layup to send the game to overtime with 1.8 seconds left.
In the overtime, UE had a miss and turnover in its first two possessions while the Redbirds hit a pair of free throws to go up 63-61. Wing hit a free throw to get UE within one at the 2 minute mark. Purcell struck again with a floater as the Redbirds extended their lead to three at 65-62.
With ISU still up three at 67-64 in the final minute, Mislav Brzoja tied it up with a three, giving the last shot to the Redbirds. Just as they did in regulation, ISU took advantage as Knight hit a jumper with 1.8 ticks left to give them the win.
Rebounding played a primary role in the game as ISU finished with a 49-31 edge on the glass. They also posted 21 offensive rebounds. Illinois State shot 42% on the day while the Aces finished at 40.4%.
From here, the Aces head to St. Louis for Arch Madness where they will match up once again versus the Redbirds. Game time is set for 2:30 p.m. at Scottrade Center on Friday afternoon.