Jaylon Brown and Christian Benzon tied for the game high with 17 points to lead the University of Evansville Men's Basketball team to a 70-58 win over UNI on Sunday at the Ford Center in the second annual West Side Night.
Brown hit seven shots and dished out eight assists for UE (10-5, 1-1 MVC) while Benzon had six shots and three steals. Ryan Taylor finished the night with 14 points while Jaiveon Eaves had his best college effort with 13 points. He hit both 3-point attempts.
Jeremy Morgan was the top scorer for UNI (5-8, 0-2 MVC) as he totaled 16 points. Juwan McCloud finished the game with 13.
"We knew that it would take a team effort against a program like UNI and our guys came out ready to play," UE head coach Marty Simmons said. "Facing some adversity, our guys were able to step up."
Defense was the name of the game early on as the teams combined to go 2-for-17 from the field leading to a 5-2 Aces lead eight minutes into the game. After UNI cut the gap to 5-4, Benzon hit a three as UE scored five in a row to take a 10-4 advantage.
"Our guys were stepping up, we only played seven players, so we know that we all needed to step up," Brown said. "Our shots were not falling early on, but Jaiveon came in and gave us a spark."
After UNI cut the gap to five at 21-15 with 3:21 left, the Aces cranked it up, finishing the half on a 13-5 stretch to take a 34-20 lead into the break. Eaves, who scored ten in the half, notched seven of those in that final stretch, including one at the buzzer. Brown also notched ten in the period.
"Coach talked about players being out and I knew that I needed to step up. I really started to feel it near the end of the first half," Eaves said.
The 20 points by UNI in the first half were the fewest allowed by UE in a half this season and least since Indiana State had 20 in the second half of the MVC semifinal game last year in St. Louis.
Evansville added to the lead in the second half as a 14-7 run out of the locker room gave the Aces their largest lead of the game at 48-27 with 12:28 on the clock. Solomon Hainna drained a shot from outside to cap off the run.
UNI did not give up at all, scoring seven in a row over the next 2:40 to cut the gap to 14. Ryan Taylor ended the stretch with a triple as UE pushed its edge back to 21 with 8:10 remaining. Three minutes later, the Panthers made another push as a Morgan layup got UNI back within 13 at 57-44. Evansville was able to overcome the rally, never allowing its lead to get back into single digits while holding on for the 70-58 victory.
Despite being limited to just seven players, the Aces finished with a 38-30 edge on the boards, led by eight from Hainna. He made the first start of his career on Sunday and has grabbed 17 rebounds in the last two games. David Howard added seven boards and six points.
By scoring 70 points versus, it marked just the second time in the last 11 games that UE has hit that mark against the Panthers. It was also ended a stretch that saw the squad score 57 or less against UNI in the five previous contests.
Wednesday night, the Aces will be back on the floor at the Ford Center as they will face Bradley. Game time is 7:00 p.m.