Aces give Billikens good fight in road loss
ST. LOUIS, MO. (WFIE) - Holding a 4-point lead near the midway point of the second half, the University of Evansville men’s basketball team gave Saint Louis all it could handle before a 26-2 run lifted the Billikens to an 83-65 win on Saturday inside Chaifetz Arena.
“Saint Louis is a very physical team with great quickness and we struggled with that early on,” UE head coach David Ragland said. “I am proud of how we responded and showed that we can play with anyone. We want to get better every single day and stay connected with everything that we do.”
Yacine Toumi posted the first double-double of his career as he totaled 14 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. Antoine Smith Jr. scored 11 while Kenny Strawbridge Jr. registered eight. Five Billikens finished in double figures led by Gibson Jimerson, who tallied 18. Javon Pickett notched a double-double with 11 points and 13 caroms. Yuri Collins also picked up a double-double with 13 assists and 12 points.
Saint Louis jumped out to a 5-0 lead when Kenny Strawbridge Jr. got the Aces on the board with a basket at the 18:06 mark. The Billikens kept the pressure on, draining six of their first eight attempts to extend the lead to 14-2. Just past the 5-minute mark, Preston Phillips turned a steal into the first 3-pointer of the evening for Evansville.
With 8:51 remaining in the half, the Billikens hit a free throw that pushed their lead to its highest point – 28-14. An unbelievable stretch saw UE drained six of its next eight attempts while outscoring the Billikens by a 19-4 margin on the way to its first lead of the night. Following a pair of free throws by Gage Bobe, Antoine Smith Jr. nailed a triple to make it a 28-19 game with 8:08 showing in the opening period.
Marvin Coleman II added one from outside and Yacine Toumi followed it up with a drive to the basket that cut the deficit to just four with 6:32 left in the half. Javon Pickett converted a layup to push the lead back to six points just over a minute later, but the Aces kept rolling. Bobe highlighted a 7-0 run with a triple with Strawbridge capping it off with a pair of free throws. Those tallies put Evansville in front – 33-32 – with 3:36 showing on the clock.
Fred Thatch Jr. ended the Evansville rally with a triple, but the Aces did not relent. Yacine Toumi connected on a second-chance basket in the final minute and Smith hit a triple to complete the first half scoring and send UE to the locker room up by a 39-37 margin.
Strawbridge opened the second half with two quick baskets that put the Aces in front at 43-40. Toumi knocked down a pair of free throws at the 16:35 mark to make it a 2-possession UE lead at 47-43. Five minutes later, a turnaround jumper by Toumi made it a 4-point game once again with a 55-51 score.
At that point, Saint Louis took control. The ensuing 10-minute stretch saw the Billikens embark on a 26-2 run as they put the game out of reach at 77-57. Late scores by Grant Tichenor and Chris Moncrief put the final touches on an 83-65 final.
The home opener is set for Wednesday evening when the Aces welcome Southeast Missouri State to the Ford Center for a 7 p.m. contest.
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