Men’s basketball leads wire-to-wire in win over Missouri State

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Aces improve to 12-6 on the season

Dainius Chatkevicius posted the first double-double of his Division I career as four players recorded double figures in a 64-55 win by the University of Evansville men’s basketball team over preseason MVC favorite Missouri State on Wednesday night inside the Ford Center.

Chatkevicius set his career mark with 11 caroms while scoring 10 points.  Dru Smith turned an 8-for-8 effort from the free throw line into 15 points.  Ryan Taylor notched 13 while K.J. Riley finished with 11.

“Sticking to the game plan is what it was all about tonight,” Riley said.  “We did what the coaches said and it paid off.”

UE’s (12-6, 2-3 MVC) offense shot 45.8% on the night while the defense held Missouri State (13-5, 3-2 MVC) to 36.2%.  Leading MSU was Alize Johnson, who had 16 points and 14 rebounds.  Reggie Scurry and Jarrid Rhodes notched 10 points apiece.”Second, third and fourth efforts really helped us tonight,” UE head coach Marty Simmons said.  “Everybody contributed tonight, that’s what it really takes for us to be successful.  The start was key – just having the opportunity to get off to a good start where our guys felt good was huge.”

Evansville jumped out to a 6-0 lead to start the game as the Bears missed their first seven shots of the night.  Reggie Scurry ended the streak with a bucket to make it a 6-3 game in favor of UE.  The slow start continued for the Bears until Alize Johnson got rolling.  He scored three of his 11 first-half tallies to cut the Aces lead to just a pair at 8-6.

Chatkevicius helped UE halt the run by the Bears, posting back-to-back baskets to extend the lead to 12-6.  After MSU got back within two points at 14-12, the Purple Aces connected on five out of six shots to open up a 22-12 lead.  Ryan Taylor drained a pair of triples as UE added to the lead.  Evansville’s stretch continued as the advantage reached 11 (29-18) on a 3-pointer by Dru Smith.

In the final four minutes of the half, the Bears were able to trim four points off of the UE lead and make it a 31-24 game heading into the half.  Coming off the bench, Chatkevicius had 8 points and 8 rebounds in the opening stanza to lead the team in both stats.

Noah Frederking opened up the second half with his first field goal of the night to push the edge back to nine, but the Bears responded with a push of their own to get within five at 33-28.  Taylor then helped the Aces regain its double digit lead, posting his third trey of the game.  Following his bucket, it was John Hall who knocked down consecutive buckets to helped UE match its largest lead of 11 at 42-31 six minutes in.

Ronnie Rousseau III brought the Bears back within two possessions.  After draining a 3-pointer, he scored on a runout to make it a 45-40 game in favor of UE midway through the latter half.  Taylor hit a tough jumper to end the stretch.  Despite his effort, the Bears continued to cut the gap as two Rousseau free throws made it a four point game.

K.J. Riley and Smith each connected on two free throws with under seven minutes left to extend the lead back to eight points at 54-46, but MSU did not let the Aces get too far ahead.  Jarred Dixon was true from downtown to make it a 5-point game once again.

As the clock got down to three minutes, Riley made what may have been the biggest play of the game.  With the shot clock near zero, Riley was fouled on a make that extended the lead to seven.  On the ensuing trip down the floor, Jarrid Rhodes connected on his third from outside to make it a 4-point game with two minutes left.

UE’s lead went back up to six on a Chatkevicius dunk, but Alize Johnson’s three on the other end made it a one-possession game (58-55) for the first time since the early moments of the first half.  Smith was able to draw a foul on the Aces’ next offensive possession and hit both free throws.

“DC’s dunk was the biggest play of the night, I could tell that they really lost their confidence after that,” K.J. Riley explained.

From there, it was all Aces.  Smith calmly hit two more free throws in the final second to make it a 64-55 final.

Against a team that had been out rebounded just one time entering the game, the Aces finished with a 38-31 advantage on the boards.  Keying that was 11 by Chatkevicius and six from John Hall.  Hall also had eight points.

“They are one of the best rebounding teams, that was definitely key for us tonight,” Chatkevicius commented.

It is back to the road for UE as they head to the Knapp Center in Des Moines, Iowa to face Drake on Saturday in a 2 p.m. contest.

“We have Drake next and have to get ready for them,” Coach Simmons pointed out.  “When you beat a good team like Missouri State, you hope that it will give the guys confidence.  Drake is in first place and playing great, we have to be ready to compete up there.”

 

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