EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) -Trailing by four points inside the final 30 seconds of regulation, the University of Evansville men’s basketball team fought back to send the game to overtime, but a late rally by Southern Illinois in the extra session helped them finish with a 64-60 victory on Wednesday inside the Ford Center.
K.J. Riley had a great all-around game for the Purple Aces (9-15, 0-11 MVC), posting 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting and a 10-for-11 showing from the free throw line. He added seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. Sam Cunliffe tallied 15 points while Jawaun Newton hit a pair of triples on his way to 10 points. Newton did not reach double figures in his first 48 games at UE, but has hit the mark in two of the last four games. Evan Kuhlman continued to evolve and had perhaps his best game with the program, posting seven blocks, six rebounds, five points, four steals and three assists.
“It was a well-played basketball team. I cannot fault our guys at all, they executed, moved the basketball and did everything we asked,” Evansville head coach Todd Lickliter said. “We have not gotten the results that we have wanted, but we will not change our approach. We will keep working at it and getting better.”
Both defenses were strong in the first half, leading to a 24-22 score in favor of the Salukis (14-10, 8-3 MVC) at halftime. Evansville recorded the first six points of the night with Sam Cunliffe and Evan Kuhlman hitting 3-pointers to open the scoring. Southern Illinois hit one of their first six field goal tries as they trailed by an 8-2 tally.
Their offense would turn around as a 7-0 stretch saw them take their first lead of the game at 12-10 just past the halfway point of the opening period. A drive to the basket by Artur Labinowicz was followed up by a Cunliffe free throw that put the Aces back on top – 13-12.
Another run by the Salukis pushed their advantage to a game-high seven points – 24-17 – with three minutes remaining in the half. UE pushed back in the final moments – holding the Salukis off the scoreboard while Cunliffe’s second 3-pointer, coupled with a Jawaun Newton layup, cut the SIU lead to 24-22. Cunliffe led all players with 11 points in the half.
After the Salukis scored the first four points of the second half, the Aces countered when Cunliffe dunked on a runout and K.J. Riley followed with a pair of free throws to get his team back within a pair. On the defensive side, Evan Kuhlman put on a clinic. He had two blocks in the first half and added four more in the opening three minutes of the second.
Southern Illinois took its largest lead at 37-28 with 14 minutes on the clock before the Aces would rally. Jawaun Newton got it started with a triple before Riley reeled off five in a row to get the Aces back within a possession – 39-36. With 9:40 left, Noah Frederking got his team even closer with a jumper that made it a 41-40 game in favor of the Salukis.
Still up by one, SIU scored six points in a row to go back up by seven points of the 7-minute mark. The feisty Aces crew countered once again and battled SIU down to the wire. With 3:48 remaining, a basket by Riley cut the deficit to 49-46. Riley added a pair of free throws with 47 ticks on the clock that made it a 52-50 deficit. After an SIU bucket pushed the lead to four with 28 ticks remaining, the Aces made one final rally with Riley doing it all. The senior drew a foul and converted both free throws to get his team within a pair. On the defensive side, he forced a turnover and took the ball back down the floor. His putback in the final seconds sent the game to overtime tied up at 54-54.
UE got the scoring started with another Cunliffe basket in the first minute. Two lead changes led to a 60-59 Aces lead as the final minute began. The tide turned when a Lance Jones bucket put the Salukis in front for good. His field goal gave SIU a 61-60 lead and following a UE miss, he drained three free throws in the final 19 seconds to clinch the win.
Marcus Domask was SIU’s top scorer with 22 points while Jones scored 15 and Barret Benson registered 14. He led the Salukis with 10 boards. SIU finished with a 44-36 rebounding edge and outshot the Aces by a 40.3%-36.1% margin.
A nationally televised contest is up next when the Aces head to Peoria, Ill. on Sunday to face Bradley. The CBS Sports Network will have coverage of the 1 p.m. game at Carver Arena.
Text Courtesy: UE Athletics