The University of Evansville men’s basketball team overcame an early 14-point deficit to grab a 76-65 win over the University of Northern Iowa on Sunday evening at the McLeod Center.
Colt Ryan was held scoreless in the first half, but came back to score 29 in the second half to lead the Aces (7-5, 2-0 MVC) to the win. He was a perfect 14-for-14 from the free throw line and hit six out of 15 shots. Denver Holmes tallied 16 points while Kenneth Harris had 11.
Northern Iowa (10-4, 0-2 MVC) got off to a quick start, knocking down three treys on their way to a 13-2 lead just over four minutes into the contests. Seth Tuttle scored four early points while Marc Sonnen hit a pair of treys to cap the run.
After starting 1-5 from the floor, the Aces made their way back into the game. Denver Holmes hit a three-pointer before Colt Ryan found an open Lewis Jones for a layup to make it 15-8, but the Panthers continued their sharpshooting beyond the arc, hitting five of their first nine attempts. Sonnen hit his third as UNI took a 22-8 lead.
Following a Kenneth Harris dunk, the Aces finished the half on a 13-5 run to make it a 27-21 game at halftime. Harris scored nine points in the half while forcing a pair of steals, both of which resulted in points for the Aces. Evansville turned the heat up on defense, forcing 13 UNI turnovers in the opening period, which turned into ten points for UE.
Despite being shut out in the first half, Colt Ryan kept up the intensity and it paid off in a big way in the second half. Ryan notched seven points in the first four minutes of the second half, including a three on UE’s opening possession to get the Aces within three points, 27-24.
The Aces kept the run going as it would turn into a 31-14 run over the course of 18 minutes from the first to the second half. After a Holmes layup cut the lead to just a point, Ned Cox hit consecutive shots to give UE its first lead of the game at 39-36 with 12 minutes left in the contest.
Ryan continued his second half surge. With under eight minutes remaining, Ryan scored his 14th point of the half giving UE its largest advantage to that point at 48-43. Holmes also surged in the latter half as his second trey of the game gave him double figures and also gave UE an eight-point advantage.
A Deon Mitchell three-pointer cut the Aces’ lead back down to five points and with under four minutes left, Seth Tuttle hit an open layup to make it a 56-53 game in favor of the Aces. UE got a little bit of breathing room with 2:36 remaining as Ryan grabbed a deflected pass and turned it into a bucket that gave the Aces a 58-53 advantage.
With UE up 60-54, Johnny Moran hit a three with 1:43 remaining to get UNI back within a possession. Evansville responded with a Cox layup, which sent UE on a run that saw them hold a nine-point edge on several occasions. The Aces sank their free throws late and came away with the win, marking their first victory in Cedar Falls since the 2001-02 season.
Tuttle was the leading scorer for UNI with 16 points. Sonnen notched 14 while Deon Mitchell also had 14. Evansville shot 47.9% for the game while holding the Panthers to 40.7%. Despite being outrebounded 20-12 in the first half, the Aces held the advantage when it mattered most, grabbing 20 second-half boards while holding UNI to just 13.
Next up for the Aces is Wichita State. The Shockers fell to 10-3 on the season and 1-1 in the MVC following a 68-61 defeat at the hands of Creighton on Saturday night. Evansville and Wichita State will square off on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. inside the Ford Center.