The NCAA-leading 15th double-double of the season for Egidijus Mockevicius saw the University of Evansville men’s basketball team earn an 89-78 victory over Indiana State in Missouri Valley Conference action on Tuesday night at the Ford Center.
Mockevicius had 10 points and a season-high 15 rebounds in the victory for the Purple Aces (16-5, 6-3 MVC). D.J. Balentine led UE with 18 points. He also dished out a team-best six assists. Balentine was pleased with his team’s effort in the win.
“They are a very good team and we came out with a sense of urgency today,” he said. “Seeing my teammates score gives me more joy than anything and us winning at the end of the day is the best.”
Blake Simmons tied his season mark with 14 points while Duane Gibson had a solid day with 11. He saw 3 of his 4 attempts fall through the bottom of the net and also had four helpers. For the third game in a row, Taylor Stafford set his career scoring mark. He netted nine on a 2-3 day from outside. He has scored more points in the last three outings than he did in the first 18 games of the season.
“The coaches told me to keep taking shots and eventually they would fall,” Stafford said. “I just want to keep doing whatever I can to help my squad.”
Indiana State (10-11, 6-3 MVC) got off to a quick start, scoring the first four points of the game as Justin Gant hit a triple in the first possession. After missing its first two shots, Evansville fought back, hitting five of its next six buckets.
Egidijus Mockevicius got the first points of the game for UE as the Aces went on a 9-0 run. Mockevicius hit an and-one in the stretch as he had five early tallies. The Sycamores stayed in it thanks to the long shot as three of its first five long range attempts were good. They retook the lead at 15-13.
In a back-and-forth period, the Aces were helped by a D.J. Balentine triple as he helped UE takes it largest lead at 23-17 midway through the half. Indiana State continued to rake from outside, going 5/8 to overcome the deficit and tie the game up at 23-23.
Evansville was able to wrestle the advantage back before taking its largest edge of the opening stanza at 40-33 inside the final minute of the half as Taylor Stafford was fouled on a three and hit the ensuing free throws. With time running out, Devonte Brown was fouled on a triple and was able to cut the deficit to four at halftime as the Aces were up 40-36.
Balentine led everyone with 11 at the half while Brenton Scott led Indiana State with 10 at the break.
A Tre Bennett bucket got the ISU deficit back to just three points before the Aces were able to make their largest move of the game. A 13-2 stretch saw UE extend its lead to a game-high 14 points at 60-46 with 9:19 left. In that run, Stafford netted his career-best ninth point of the night. It marked the third game in a row he has reset his career mark in scoring.
Indiana State did not go away easy as an old-fashioned 3-point play by Devonte Brown cut the gap to 10 with just over 7 minute left. Balentine countered with a triple at the other end to give UE a 67-54 lead.
An and-one by Mockevicius looked to give the Aces full control with 3:01 left as they went up 80-62. As always, the Sycamores did not make it easy for the Aces. An unbelievable 13-0 run saw them hit 5 out of six shots, including three triples to get back within six at 81-75 with 1:14 remaining. UE was able to clamp down and score the next five from the charity stripes to go back up 11 at 86-75. From there, the Aces held strong in earning the 89-78 triumph.
Adam Wing continued to get better after returning from injury. His 3-5 day from the floor helped him finish with 8 points. He also tied his season mark with five assists.
Evansville shot 53.2% on the day and finished with 89 points, the most against the Sycamores since an 89-64 win on Jan. 26, 1995 at Roberts Stadium.
Four Sycamores wrapped up the night in double digits, led by Brenton Scott’s 20 points. He also led ISU with 7 boards. Devonte Brown recorded 18 points and seven assists. Bennett (16) and Gant (14) were the other top scorers.
Evansville takes to the road for its next two games, beginning on Saturday when the Aces face Drake in a 2 p.m. game in Des Moines. A week from today, UE will face Illinois State in its annual visit to Normal, Ill. Game time will be 7 p.m. The next home game for the Aces will be on Saturday, February 7 against Bradley. Tickets are available by calling 812-488-ACES or by visiting the ticket office at the Carson Center or Ford Center.