Led by D.J. Balentine's 23 points, four Purple Aces found double figures in the scorebook as the University of Evansville basketball team earned an 81-69 win over Ohio University on Thursday evening at the Ford Center.
Evansville (8-2) trailed the Bobcats (3-4) by two at the half, but utilized an 11-0 run in the second half to lead by as many as six points with five minutes left. Ohio U. fought back to send the game to overtime where the UE defense held strong. The Aces shut out the Bobcats by a 12-0 score in the extra session, forcing them to miss all nine shots.
With a 12-0 shutout in overtime, the Aces became the first Missouri Valley Conference team to shut out a non-conference opponent in overtime in the last 20 years. It was the second overall shutout in the extra session as Drake outscored Bradley by a 5-0 tally in OT on Jan. 28, 2004. The Bulldogs earned a 62-57 win over the Braves in that contest.
Balentine was 8-19 from the field while setting his career mark with eight rebounds. Egidijus Mockevicius posted his second double-double in a row and sixth of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Blake Simmons had his top game of the season with 14 points while Adam Wing checked in with 11 points and six rebounds.
"We did not play with a lot of emotion for the first 35 minutes, but picked up our intensity in the last five minutes and that carried over into overtime," Evansville head coach Marty Simmons said.
Wing echoed those sentiments.
"As the game went on, I felt like our intensity skyrocketed and the crowd was a huge help for us," Wing explained. "It was big for us to bounce back. Give us a lot of credit - our backs were against the wall. We needed this win."
Blake Simmons got the Aces on the board and scored a game-high of ten points in the first 20 minutes, including two triples. The Bobcats jumped out to a 4-0 lead with their opening two shots falling before Simmons hit UE's first bucket of the night. Just over three minutes in, D.J. Balentine got on the board with a jumper to tie it up for the first time at 7-7.
Ohio U. got called for two technical fouls in the first nine minutes. The first sent Balentine to the line as he gave UE its first advantage at 8-7. Behind back-to-back triples, the Bobcats took their largest lead at 15-10. They connected on five of their ten triples in the period.
Down 18-17, Evansville took its largest advantage with 8:44 left as Jaylon Brown hit a long jumper. That followed an Adam Wing trey, which saw UE go up 22-18.
Ten lead changes took place in the first 20 minutes. Over the final 7 minutes, neither team would lead by more than a possession. In the final seconds, Stevie Taylor hit a layup to give the Bobcats a 38-36 lead at the half. The Bobcats did their work in the paint, outscoring UE by an 18-8 tally through 20 minutes. Maurice Ndour had 7 points and 5 boards to pace OU.
Two minutes into the second half, Javarez Willis hit a basket to give the Bobcats a 4-point lead and that edge would go up to six with 15:45 remaining. Ohio University continued to lead as their advantage stood at 57-52 before the Aces made their rally. Evansville scored 11 points in a row over the span of 3:36 to take a 57-63 edge with 5:11 remaining. Wing notched four over that span.
Evansville continued to hold the lead, which stood at six with four minutes left. That is when the Bobcats rallied back. They got back within a possession with a triple at the 3:57 mark before Ndour hit a layup to get within one with 82 ticks left. Willis capped off the comeback as his second triple tied it up at 69-69 inside of the 1-minute mark. The Aces were unable to convert on two opportunities and the game went to overtime.
In the extra period, it was all Aces. They shut out the Bobcats by a 12-0 mark to earn the 81-69 win. OU missed all nine of its attempts in the extra stanza while the Aces were 3-5 from the field and a perfect 6-6 from the line.
Four Bobcats hit double figures, led by Ndour. He tallied 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Willis notched 12 while Antonio Campbell and Stevie Taylor had 10 apiece.
Evansville finished the night shooting 50% while OU checked in at 41.4%. The Aces finished the night with a 38-33 rebounding edge and were credited with 21 assists in 27 makes.
On Sunday, the Aces wrap up their pre-Christmas slate against Alabama State at 1:05 p.m. For tickets, call 812-488-ACES.