Balentine Nets 30 As Simmons Wins 200th
March 7, 2014HOOSIER SPORTS 365
EVANSVILLE SPORTS RELEASE
ST. LOUIS – D.J. Balentine netted a game-high 30 points as the Purple Aces men's basketball team took a 69-61 win over Drake in the opening round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at Scottrade Center. The win marked the 200th in the career of head coach Marty Simmons.
"I am very proud of our team, they made some great plays and we were able to come away with the win," Simmons said. "Our zone defense slowed the pace down a little bit and we were able to make a run. Changing our defense really helped us."
Next up for the Aces is a date against undefeated and No. 2 Wichita State. Game time is set for noon and will be televised on the MVC TV Network.
Balentine hit 9 shots for UE (14-18) while going 11-13 from the free throw line. Egidijus Mockevicius fell just two blocks shy of a triple-double, posting 19 points, 10 rebounds and 8 blocks. The block tally tied the school single-game mark and was an MVC Tournament record.
Drake began the game lights out from the floor. A quick 5-7 start from the field saw the Bulldogs jump out to a 12-6 lead. Richard Carter, who averaged 12.5 PPG in two games against the Aces this season, was responsible for 9 of those tallies.
"Getting to the free throw line really helps," Balentine said. "The coaches always put me in a great position to score and that really helps with my confidence."
Egidijus Mockevicius connected on a pair of layups early on before a D.J. Balentine and-one brought UE with a pair at 16-14. The efficient shooting continued for the Bulldogs as Chris Caird hit a triple just over eight minutes in to give DU a 19-14 advantage.
Balentine spearheaded a 5-0 stretch as he scored eight out of nine UE points in a stretch that led to the first tie since the opening moments. His bucket with nine minutes remaining tied it up at 19-19. Evansville switched to an effective zone defense that led to the offensive stretch. Despite a Jordan Daniels bucket, the zone continued to pay dividends.
A Balentine drive to the basket resulted in the first UE lead of the day at 22-21 before the rally turned into a 19-2 stretch that saw UE take a 33-21 advantage. Evansville hit 5-of-6 shots at the end of the stretch, coming up with three points in three consecutive possessions. Balentine and Blake Simmons each hit 3's while Jaylon Brown hit an old fashioned 3-point play to cap it off.
The zone defense forced Drake to 1-8 shooting and 3 turnovers in the run. Daniels ended the run and Caird knocked down his second triple for a quick 5-0 spurt, but Mockevicius hit a short jumper at the 3:16 mark. The Aces reestablished their double-digit lead over the final moments as they took a 39-28 lead into the locker room.
UE finished the half shooting 56%, led by an efficient 4-5 effort from Mockevicius. Balentine led everyone with 16 at halftime.
Out of the locker room, the Aces scored three quick points to open up a 4-point advantage, but Drake showed good fight, scoring eight in a row, led by triples by Richard Carter and Hawley as the Bulldogs cut the gap to just six points at 42-36 with 16:38 remaining.
Just as fast as Drake made the run, Evansville fought back. Balentine scored six points as the lead pushed back to 12 three minutes later. A layup by Gibson pushed the lead to a game-high 15 points at 58-43, but the Bulldogs fought back once again. The triples fell once again as Daniels knocked down two more as they score nine in a row inside of the 9 minute mark.
The Aces slowly took the game over at that point, pushing the edge to double figures on a Balentine jumper inside of the 4-minue mark before the final 69-61.
Brown posted 8 points on a solid 3-3 night from the field. Leading the Bulldogs was Carter, who tallied 26. He hit 11-18 shots and 3 triples. Daniels finished with 11. Evansville shot 51.2% while holding Drake to 44.2%.