NASSAU, Bahamas (WFIE) - Trailing by 11 points in the final minutes of regulation, the University of Evansville men’s basketball team tie the game with 1.5 seconds remaining on a K.J. Riley three-pointer before defeating Morgan State in triple overtime by a final of 115-112 in the Islands of the Bahamas Showcase at Baha Mar.
For the second day in a row, Riley reset his career scoring mark, pouring in 36 on 12-of-19 shooting while adding 10 free throws. Artur Labinowicz was 6-of-9 from the floor on his way to 17. Shamar Givance and Sam Cunliffe recorded 15 points apiece while DeAndre Williams had 14. Morgan State was led by Troy Baxter, who had 30 points and 10 rebounds.
“I am really proud of our guys, they never gave up today. We really came together at the end of the game and in overtime,” Aces head coach Walter McCarty said. “This shows what we are capable of when we play the right way. We are excited to get back home tomorrow and get off our feet before heading to IUPUI next week.”
Morgan State scored the first five points of the game with Troy Baxter hitting a triple and one from inside. The Bears would open up a 7-2 lead before the UE offense got rolling, scoring nine in a row. Most of that was attributed to Artur Labinowicz. The redshirt junior hit a game-tying triple before finding John Hall on a nice feed to give UE its first lead at 9-7 at the 16:12 mark.
Labinowicz finished the run with a layup before the Bears got back on the board. He continued to battle, scoring what would be seven points in a row that gave Evansville a 16-11 lead just over seven minutes into the contest.
The Bears were able to make their way back, scoring nine in a row to retake the lead at 20-14. David Syfax Jr. capped the rally off with consecutive baskets. Jawaun Newton put UE back in front with six minutes left before bookending the run with a layup that saw the Aces match their largest lead of seven – 32-25. Over the final four minutes, the Bears would outscore the Aces by a 14-6 tally to take a 39-38 halftime lead.
Out of the locker room, an and-one by MSU pushed the lead back to four in the opening minute. They would extend their advantage to six points at 49-43, but it was Labinowicz converting a 4-point play that got UE within a pair. DeAndre Williams made his presence known, hitting a pair of field goals that saw Evansville keep the game within a possession.
The sixth triple of the day for MSU pushed the lead back to five at 56-51 and the advantage would grow to eight on a pair of transition baskets with under 13 minutes remaining. They would open their first double figure lead of 67-55 on a Baxter three at the midway point of the half. Riley quickly cut the deficit back to nine with a 3-point play on the ensuing trip.
Sam Cunliffe blocked the next Bear attempt and would drain a triple that got Evansville back within six tallies. Credit on that possession goers to Noah Frederking, who saved the ball from going out of bounds, leading to the triple. On the other end, UE blocked a shot that went right back to Morgan State, who drained another trey that reestablished their nine-point lead.
Shamar Givance drained his first 3-pointer of the game to bring his team within five and the Bears were able to counter with another triple that made it a 75-67 game with six minutes remaining. MSU would take an 80-69 advantage with three minutes remaining, but UE staged one final rally. Labinowicz drew a charge that turned into a Riley three on the other side as the deficit was trimmed to six.
After forcing a quick turnover, Shamar Givance found Williams for a slam that made it an 80-76 Morgan State lead with the clock going into the final two minutes. With 1:43 left, Riley struck again as the squad got within a pair. Givance put the pressure on the Bears with 40 ticks left, forcing a turnover and hitting a bucket to get even closer at 81-80.
Trailing by three in the final possession, K.J. Riley was the hero. Facing immense pressure, he nailed the game-tying three. He was off balance due to the pressure but was still able to hit the shot and force overtime with an 85-85 score.
Givance knocked down a triple to open the extra period before the Bears tied it up at 92-92 two minutes in. They would go back in front on a pair of free throws with 96 seconds remaining with Riley tying it back up at 96-96 seconds later. Both teams would add two more tallies, leading to double overtime tied at 98-98. UE looked to take the lead with five seconds left in the first overtime, but a goaltend was overturned.
A pair of MSU free throws opened the scoring in the second extra period before Riley continued another career effort, putting the Aces in front with a 3-point play at 102-100. The Bears fought their way back in front at 105-102 with the second overtime going into the final two minutes. Their lead would stand until Cunliffe reached 15 points on the day with a triple that tied it up with 25.4 seconds left. On MSU’s next trip, lockdown defense by Cunliffe saw him block the potential game-winner and send it to a third OT knotted at 105-105.
In the third overtime, two more free throws saw the Bears add two more from the charity stripe to go back in front. As the clock went under 50 seconds, Evansville took its first lead as Riley took on three Bear players to grab his own offensive board and turn it into a field goal that made it a 112-111 game in favor of the Aces. Following a Bear miss, the Aces corralled the rebound and Shamar Givance hit both free throws. A final MSU shot fell short, giving Evansville the 115-112 win. The Aces shot 56.5% for the game while holding MSU to 46.9%. The Bears finished with a 44-35 rebounding advantage.
Today’s game marked the first time UE has scored 100 or more since Nov. 15, 2014 when the team posted 116 against Earlham. It marked the first triple overtime game for UE since Feb. 6, 1958 when the Aces defeated St. Joseph’s (Indiana), 78-70.
With the completion of the tournament, the Aces will travel back to Evansville on Monday and will be on the floor Saturday at IUPUI for a 6 p.m. CT contest in Indianapolis.