We are back at the Ford Center for the first in a stretch of four home outings in five games. I am going to switch things up just a little tonight with our live blog. On the road, it is difficult for me to do much more than a short Twitter-like update, but when I am free at our home games, I would like to give everyone more insight into the game. Follow along here!
Offense has been the story so far as the Aces are 10-21 from the floor and lead Illinois State 25-15 just over nine minutes in. The leading scorer so far is Egidijus Mockevicius, who has done a great job down low in the earlygoing. Outside shooting is the story so far as the Aces are 4-7 from outside. They have also forced six Illinois State turnovers.
If you listen to Lance Wilkerson and I do our road broadcasts, you will know that we like to use the term “gold star”. Here is a stat you need to put a gold star next to – the Redbirds are just 1-for-8 from outside. In ISU’s 79-78 overtime win earlier this year at Redbird Arena, they hit 10 triples. That is making a difference so far as Evansville holds a 37-19 lead with 7 minutes remaining in the first half.
For all of you who love dissecting stats as much as I do, here is another one so far. This season, Evansville has taken more shots than just one opponent this season, that being Loyola. Regardless of how a team is shooting, if you take more shots than they do, you are more likely to win. As the Aces continue to lead 43-25, they have taken 27 attempts as opposed to just 17 by Illinois State. A 16-9 rebounding edge also plays in Evansville’s favor at this point, that tally also includes a 7-2 edge on the offensive boards.
We are just about through halftime as the Aces are on top 54-33. For the third game in a row, the trio of D.J. Balentine, Egidijus Mockevicius and Blake Simmons are all in double figures. UE led by as many as 24 points at 49-25 in the final minutes of the opening half before settling for a solid 21-point advantage. Balentine has been on target thus far, hitting 4 of his 7 shots and 7 out of 8 free throws.
The Redbirds have been led by freshman center Reggie Lynch. Lynch has been impressive in his inaugural campaign, leading the league in blocked shots with 58 on the season. Second is none other than UE’s Mockevicius. He is the lone ISU player in double figures with 12. Entering the game, he was a 42.9% free throw shooter but has hit all six attempts tonight and hit five of his last seven entering the game. Speaking of Lynch, he just blocked a UE shot for his first block of the night, leading to a Bobby Hunter 3-pointer as ISU has opened the half on a 7-2 run and trail by 16, 56-40, two minutes into the second stanza.
Daighon Knight completed what was a 14-7 run to open up the second half as his bucket at the 4-minute mark made it a 61-47 game. Since then, the Aces have scored six points in a row as they lead 67-47. Illinois State has hit 16 of their 34 shots and are a perfect 11/11 from the line. Meanwhile for UE, Balentine is already up to 23 points for UE. It is his 17th 20+ point game of the year. In last year’s run to the UE scoring mark, Colt Ryan registered 20 such outings in 36 games.
Evansville’s lead is currently at its highest point – 25 points with 9 minutes left. Balentine is having an efficient 5/9 night from the floor and has made a living at the line, hitting 15 out of 19 free throws. There is still plenty of time left, however, it is worth noting that Balentine has attempted at least 11 shots in all 25 contests this season.
Is anyone at the game with me or perhaps listening from somewhere afar? If so, plan on being here for a while as the fouls are adding up for both squads. In the second half, UE has been whistled seven times while Illinois State is already at the double figure mark. PS – make that eight on UE with 8:26 left, score is 79-54 Aces.
Illinois State has chopped off half of the deficit, scoring 14 out of 16 points to make it an 83-71 game inside of six minutes remaining. Nick Zeisloft scored nine of those points as the Redbirds came away with three points in four out of five possessions at one point. Mockevicius just ended the stretch with a great play designed by Coach Simmons out of the timeout. The lead is back up to 15 with 4:37 left.
Well it is getting interesting now with 3:28 left as Zach Lofton hit the seventh three of the half for the Redbirds as the deficit is in single digits for the first time this half at 87-78. Balentine is the leading scorer in the game with 31 points and for those wondering if he continues his streak of taking 10 or more shots in each game, he has; his tally stands at 11 attempts on the night. Zeisloft just hit a pair of free throws to narrow the lead to 87-80 with 3:24 left. Stay tuned!
The run for Illinois State stands at 26-7 over the last 5+ minutes, Lofton hit another three, score is 88-83 with 2:59 on the clock.
An unbelievable comeback has resulted in an 89-89 tie with 1:19 remaining. Illinois State has roared back with a 32-8 run over the last seven minutes of play. UE with the ball and a chance to take the lead.
And that is just what the Aces do. In one of the most clutch efforts a basketball player can have, Blake Simmons stepped to the line and hit both free throw attempts to give the lead back to UE at 91-89 with 1 minute left on the clock. Illinois State has the ball. Looks like an exciting finish is upon us!
So, that exciting finish I was talking about resulted in some free basketball at the Ford Center. Daishon Knight hit a pair of free throws with under 20 seconds remaining in regulation to knot the game at 94-94 and send the game into an extra frame. ISU finished the second half on a 37-13 run to force the overtime session. The final five minutes did not go UE’s way as they missed all three field goal attempts while turning the ball over four times and missing five free throws. All is not lost – UE is up 2 with 2:26 left in OT.
Jaylon Brown plays hero for UE. A 44.2% free throw shooter coming into the game, Brown knocked down four free throws in the final seconds of overtime to seal a 104-98 win!