EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Hitting 62.5% of their shots during the game and 73.9% in the second half, Illinois State hung on to defeat the University of Evansville men’s basketball team by a 73-68 final on Sunday afternoon inside the Ford Center.
Despite the hot shooting by the Redbirds (4-6, 1-3 MVC), the Purple Aces (6-6, 4-2 MVC) were within striking distance in the final moments. The difference in the second half was a 12-5 stretch that saw ISU erase a 7-point UE lead.
Pacing Evansville was Noah Frederking. The 3-point sharpshooter hit five outside shots on his way to a team-best 15 points. Evan Kuhlman hit five of his six 2-point field goals to score 13 points while Shamar Givance went 4-for-6 from outside on his way to 12 points.
“Over the last four games, we have been able to make enough plays and I have been pleased with what we have done,” Aces head coach Todd Lickliter expressed. “Today, you have to give Illinois State credit. We had some defensive breakdowns and when we did, they took advantage of it. That is the way it works; it is a lesson in the process – we will evaluate our performance and learn from it.”
A pair of 3-pointers sent the Aces out to a 6-3 edge in the opening two minutes with Shamar Givance and Evan Kuhlman getting on the board. The next six minutes belonged to the Redbirds. A 12-0 run saw them take a 15-6 lead. ISU hit five out of six attempts in the run before Iyen Enaruna ended a 0-for-7 drought with an offensive rebound and layup. UE was held off of the board for just over five minutes.
After the Redbirds added two more buckets, Evansville got on track with a 5-0 spurt with Givance leading off with his second long ball of the game before Enaruna added his second make. The UE run continued. With five minutes remaining in the half, Evansville began a run that turned a 22-16 deficit into a 24-22 lead. Noah Frederking and Jax Levitch hit consecutive 3-pointers before a Jawaun Newton runner gave the Aces a 24-22 lead. In total – the Aces utilized a 16-3 run to grab the lead with 3:21 on the clock.
Evansville’s defense held Illinois state to one field goal over the course of an 8-minute span while rallying back. The teams swapped the lead three times over the final minutes before ISU wrestled away a 32-20 lead at halftime. Givance was the lone player in double figures at the break, scoring 12 on a 4-for-5 effort from outside over the first 20 minutes of play.
ISU converted a 3-point play to begin the second half and would hold a 37-33 edge before the Aces countered in a big way. Ten of the next 11 shots would find the bottom of the net as UE took its largest lead at 51-44 at the 12:31-minute mark. Frederking drilled two more triples while Newton converted three baskets. Illinois State did not give up as five of their next six 3-pointers were good as they knotted the score at 56-56 with 7:18 left in the contest before going back in front by a 60-58 score with five minutes on the clock.
Hitting eight out of nine attempts, ISU took a 70-60 lead as the minutes wound down before the Aces “never give up” attitude showed. Jax Levitch drained back-to-back triples in the final 30 seconds to get his squad back within four, but the deficit proved to be too much to overcome with ISU hanging on for the 73-68 win.
Antonio Reeves led the Redbird with 21 points while hitting nine out of 11 shots.
A 3-game road trip is upcoming for UE beginning with a 2-game series at Bradley next weekend before a single game at Indiana State on January 20.