EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) -Trailing by as many as 15 points, the University of Evansville men’s basketball team cut the deficit to five in the final minutes before falling to Belmont by a final of 72-63 on Monday evening at the Ford Center.
Making his second appearance in a Purple Aces (2-4) uniform, Samari Curtis had a career game, recording 19 points on a 3-for-4 game from outside and an 8-of-10 showing from the charity stripe. Noah Frederking added 11 for Evansville.
“I thought the difference in the game was how physical they (Belmont) were. They were able to drive it to the rim and play through the contact,” UE head coach Todd Lickliter explained after the game. “We knew it was going to be a challenge. Every possession was so crucial tonight, you did not get many breaks; we had to be efficient on every possession. We are making those strides.”
Shooting 55.3% on the night, Belmont (8-1) was effective in the paint, outscoring UE by a 44-16 final in that department. JaCobi Wood paced the Bruins with 18 points while Luke Smith tallied 14. Wood was 6-for-8 from the floor and connected on six of his seven free throw tries.
Belmont scored on its first two possessions to take an early 4-0 lead before the Aces took their first advantage, scoring 14 in a row to make it 14-4. Evan Kuhlman had the first two buckets of the night before Shamar Givance found Noah Frederking for an open three on the break. The Aces continued their blistering start as Jawaun Newton added a pair of free throws before a Givance layup and Samari Curtis triple capped off the run and gave UE a double-digit advantage at the 11:47 mark.
While the Aces were hitting on all cylinders, the Bruins missed six in a row and turned the ball over four times while going scoreless for just over seven minutes. They quickly reversed that trend, going on a 29-7 run. Following their scoreless drought, BU hit 11 of their final 15 shots in the period.
Trailing by 10, the Bruins posted five in a row before Thomasi Gilgeous-Alexander found an open Iyen Enaruna for a nice layup. That put a temporary half to the run before Belmont added 10 more unanswered. Following Curtis’ second triple of the game at the 4:55 mark, the Bruins added 11 more in a row to go up 30-19 with 2:31 remaining in the half.
In a wild final 11 seconds of the half, the teams combined to hit three triples. Givance found Newton with 11 ticks left before EJ Bellinger answered on the other end. With just under three seconds left, Shamar Givance heaved one up from several feet behind the line that found the bottom of the net at the buzzer to make it a 36-27 game in favor of Belmont at the half.
Givance and Bellinger each had seven to lead their teams in the first period.
Out of the half, Belmont’s hot streak continued as they extended the advantage to a game-high 15 points at 45-30. A pair of triples from Kuhlman and Curtis quickly knocked six off of the lead five minutes into the half. Evansville hit five out of six from outside in the final sequence of the first half and the opening portion of the second.
As the game transitioned into the final minutes, the Bruin lead hovered around 10-12 points, but the Aces staged a late rally to get back into it. Belmont led by 10 with four minutes remaining before Frederking drilled his third long ball of the night. Following a missed Bruin shot, Newton converted a jumper in the paint that made it a 66-61 game with 2:33 left.
UE had a chance to get even closer as a Kuhlman block gave the Aces a chance to get within a possession, but a turnover saw Belmont extend the lead back to seven before they would finish with the 72-63 win. The Aces finished the night shooting 40.0% while Belmont finished at 55.3%. The Aces took 11 3-pointers with 11 finding the bottom of the net. Frederking and Curtis hit three apiece.
Missouri Valley Conference action is next with Evansville beginning play on Sunday, December 27 with a 3 p.m. game at Southern Illinois. Monday’s contest against the Salukis will be a 5 p.m. tip.
Text Courtesy: UE Athletics