EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) -Facing a 22-point deficit in the first half, the University of Evansville men’s basketball team staged another furious rally, battling back to take a late lead before a 7-0 run pushed Loyola to a 73-66 win inside the Ford Center.
Leading Evansville (9-17, 0-13 MVC) was K.J. Riley. The senior scored 28 points with 12 coming from the free throw line. He added six assists and five boards. Sam Cunliffe posted a 16-point outing while Evan Kuhlman added eight tallies. Loyola (17-9, 9-4 MVC) saw Lucas Williamson record 20 points with Cameron Krutwig finishing the night with 14.
“We need to do a better job of doing our responsibilities on each possession. We did a much better job of that in the second half,” Purple Aces head coach Todd Lickliter explained. “I am very proud of how we fought back. I do not want our guys to be discouraged. They are doing what they should do and are competing every game. There is something to be said for guys who never quit and I am proud of them for that.”
Loyola put on a shooting clinic in the early moments of the game, connecting on nine of their first ten shots on their way to a 23-7 lead in the first eight minutes. Evansville had an early 7-4 advantage on a Noah Frederking triple before the Ramblers posted a 19-0 run. Loyola did a nice job of spreading the ball around with six players scoring over that time.
A basket by Evan Kuhlman ended the streak but the Ramblers pushed back with the next five points. Their lead would reach as many as 22 points when a Lucas Williamson triple with 6:38 on the clock gave them a 36-14 lead.
Evansville continued to push through the adversity and their work paid off. Trailing by a 44-24 tally with 3:20 left in the half, the Aces reeled off ten points in a row with Sam Cunliffe and John Hall hitting 3-pointers to open the stretch. K.J. Riley finished it off with the final four points. The Ramblers added a late free throw and went to the half up by a 45-34 score.’
Following their 9-for-10 start from the field, the Ramblers finished the half hitting nine of their next 20 attempts to finish the period shooting 62.1%. The Aces also shot the ball well in the opening stanza, draining 11 out of 20 attempts to finish at 55.0%.
Using the momentum they gained from the final moments of the first half, the Aces continued to rally with Hall hitting his second from outside to open the scoring. Following a Loyola bucket, back-to-back field goals from Cunliffe and Riley got Evansville back within six points – 47-41 – three minutes into the final period.
The lead for the Ramblers reached 10 points when they took a 55-45 lead with 14:39 left in the game before Evansville made a huge rally. Over the next seven minutes, UE outscored the Ramblers by a 12-2 margin to tie the game up at 57-all. The Aces held Loyola scoreless for a 4-minute stretch while scoring five in a row. The scoreless streak ended with a Lucas Williamson basket before the Aces continued their rally.
Cunliffe added a nice jumper near the baseline before an and-one by Riley cut the deficit to two. Artur Labinowicz would tie the game inside of the 8-minute mark when his putback tied the game. Riley would put UE back in front when his free throw gave his squad a 60-59 lead inside of six minutes remaining.
Evansville held a 62-61 lead with 3:49 remaining, but a 7-0 run made the difference for Loyola as they put the game away with the rally. The Aces added a few late free throws, but it was not enough as Loyola finished with the 73-66 victory. The defense for UE excelled in the final 20 minutes, holding the Ramblers to a 9-of-28 showing from the field (32.1%). That effort held Loyola to 47.4% for the game while the Aces finished at 51.2%. UE’s defense forced a season-high 21 turnovers. Both teams wrapped up the night with 30 rebounds.
A pair of road games await the Aces beginning with a 3 p.m. game on Sunday at Drake before UE heads to Carbondale, Ill. on Thursday, Feb. 20 for a 7 p.m. contest.
Text Courtesy: UE Athletics