EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Despite mounting a late push to tie the game in the waning moments, the University of Evansville fell to Southern Illinois, 74-62, on Friday night in the Purple Aces' Missouri Valley Conference-opener inside Meeks Family Fieldhouse.
"I think our depth got us. It was unfortunate, but I could see fatigue setting in and we started making some passes and decisions that aren't us," said Aces head coach Matt Ruffing. "It's too bad because I thought we challenged them at halftime and I thought we got some really good things from them to make that push. (Southern Illinois) is a good team. For most of our players this was their first conference game. I have to give a lot of credit to them. When we made mistakes they made us pay."
Junior guard Kerri Gasper powered the late comeback for the Aces, scoring 15 of her team-high 17 points in the final 20 minutes of action. Gasper also recorded six assists and four boards, surpassing her assist total from a season ago. Getting it done from beyond the arc, redshirt sophomore guard Marley Miller hit four three-pointers, scoring14 points, while picking up five rebounds as well. The Salukis were led by freshman Abby Brockmeyer who recorded a pair of game-highs with 27 points and 14 rebounds.
In the first quarter, a triple by Miller gave the Aces a 9-8 lead before sophomore center Kaylan Coffman increased Evansville's advantage to three at 11-8. The Salukis responded with a 25-12 run spanning the final 11 minutes of the opening half to take a 33-23 lead into the break. During SIU's spree, the Salukis held the Aces to just 3-12 (25%) shooting from the field and forced nine Evansville turnovers.
Coming out of the half, the Aces mounted a 12-5 run fueled by nine points by Gasper as Evansville shrank its deficit to just three at 38-35 with 6:07 left in the third period. The Aces were able to withstand a 7-15 shooting quarter from the Salukis to hold SIU's lead to just three heading into the final frame.
Evansville continued to apply pressure on the Salukis in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter as sophomore guard Macie Lively received a laser pass from Gasper and laid it in to tie the game at 58 with 5:20 remaining in the fourth quarter. After Brockmeyer put the Salukis back up by a pair, Miller drove through the lane and used her left hand to finish off the glass to tie the contest again, this time at 60. From this point, SIU took control, manufacturing a 14-2 run to close the game as the Salukis grabbed the 74-62 win.
The Aces out-shot SIU, 40.4% (21-52) to 38% (27-71), and won the rebounding battle, 41-39, but a 21-9 edge for SIU in turnovers proved costly for Evansville.
On Sunday, Evansville concludes its conference-opening weekend with a 1 p.m. showdown with Missouri State inside Meeks Family Fieldhouse.