Sophomore D.J. Balentine posted a career-high 43 points, but UNI rebounded with 17 3-pointers to take a 95-81 win over the Purple Aces men's basketball team on Wednesday evening at the McLeod Center.
Balentine broke his career-best of 33 points set at Southern Illinois and set a new McLeod Center mark, breaking Jake Koch's record of 34 points set in 2011 against Bradley. He hit 10 out of 19 attempts along with 19 out of 21 free throws to lead the Aces (10-12, 3-6 MVC). His effort was tied for the third-best game in the country this season.
UNI (11-10, 5-4 MVC) hit 17 out of 33 long range attempts and were lead by 20-point efforts from Deon Mitchell and Seth Tuttle.
Balentine got the Aces off to a quick start, posting the first three points of the game to give UE a 3-0 lead, but the Panthers quickly stormed back as they knocked down their first three triples to take an 11-7 edge. With the score tied at 5-5, Matt Bohannon gave the Panthers their first lead at 8-5.
With the Panthers up 15-11, Blake Simmons made it a 3-3 start from the floor as his shots tied it up before Balentine knocked down a free throw to give the lead back to Evansville. The threes kept falling as UNI made it 5-of-7 from outside when Marvin Singleton hit his first of the year to put the Panthers up 21-18. Just over eight minutes in, it was the three ball that gave the advantage back to UE as Balentine hit the first of the game to made it a 23-22 contest.
Just like that, UNI came right back, going on a 15-5 run to take a 37-28 lead with seven minutes remaining as Seth Tuttle posted five points in a row to spearhead the run. A pair of Balentine free throws got Evansville within six at 39-33, but UNI kept the three's coming, hitting nine out of 17 in the first half to take a 54-43 lead into the locker room.
After scoring just eight in the first meeting against UNI, Balentine rebounded with 24 in the first half along, hitting 7 out of 12 shots as UE actually outshot the Panthers by a 57.1%-55.2% in the half. Bohannon was a perfect 4-4 from long range in the frame.
Out of the break, both offenses continued to click as Blake Simmons hit his fourth bucket to get the Aces within ten just over three minutes into the second half. With the Panthers up 62-50, Evansville posted the next six points to get within six, but Deon Mitchell became the seventh Panther to hit a trey as he ended the rally go put UNI up 65-56 five minutes into the latter half.
Mitchell kept rolling. After UE got within seven points at 65-58, Mitchell hit back-to-back treys as part of an 8-0 run as the Panthers took their largest lead of the night at 15 points (73-58) at the 7 minute mark. That edge would reach 16 points at 78-62 before a Mockevicius layup put UE back on the board. The momentum was short-lived as the 15th trey of the night for UNI gave them an 87-67 lead with eight minutes left.
UNI's largest lead was 22 points with seven minutes left before the Aces scored late points to cut the gap to 14.
Simmons was the other Ace to finish in double figures, having an efficient 5 out of 6 shooting night to tally 11. Adam Wing finished with eight while Mockevicius posted 7 points and a game-high 9 boards in just 16 minutes of play.