Evansville rallies but falls short against Sycamores


Aces drop 71-66 decision on Wednesday

University of Evansville sophomore Dru Smith hit 7 out of 12 shots on his way to a game-high 23 points, but four Indiana State players notched double figures as the Sycamores picked up a 71-66 win over the Purple Aces men’s basketball team on Wednesday at the Ford Center.

“Give Indiana State the credit, they are a good basketball team,” Aces head coach Marty Simmons said.  “They play hard and I think in the first half, they made some hustle plays that gave them good looks from three.  We did not play very smart and took some bad shots.”

Smith also hit 7 out of 9 free throw attempts and dished out five assists in the loss.   Blake Simmons drained seven free throws on his way to a 16-point outing for the Aces (12-8, 2-5 MVC) while Ryan Taylor was a perfect 5-for-5 from the charity stripe.  Dainius Chatkevicius had a solid night on the glass, pulling in 10 boards.

Jordan Barnes paced Indiana State (9-10, 4-3 MVC) with 17 points while Brenton Scott had 14.  Rounding out the double figure scorers for ISU were Qiydar Davis who had 12 points and Tyreke Key, who had 10.  Key also tied Brandon Murphy with a team-best 9 rebounds.

The first five points of the night belonged to the Purple Aces as Dru Smith connected on the first two shots of the game.  ISU’s offense struggled in the early going, missing its first three shots while turning the ball over five times in the opening four minutes.

Brenton Scott hit a trey to get the Sycamores within a pair at 6-4 before Duane Gibson helped the Aces take their largest lead at 10-4 with a layup seven minutes in.  ISU fought back using the long ball as eight found their way to the bottom of the net in the opening stanza.

Indiana State tied the game for the first time at 16-16 before a long ball from Blake Simmons put the lead back in the Aces hands at 21-18.  From there, the Sycamores finished the half on a 17-5 run to take a 35-26 halftime lead.  Jordan Barnes second triple gave them their first lead at 24-21 with under five minutes on the clock in the half.  Their first seven field goals of the game were all 3-pointers.

Simmons knocked down five free throws in the final three minutes of the half, but the long range shooting of Indiana State gave them the 9-point halftime edge.  UE did not convert a field goal in the final 8:02 of the period.

Out of the break, ISU added to the lead, posting the first six points to open up a 41-26 lead.  Following a time out, Ryan Taylor hit a jumper before Dru Smith added four points to cut the deficit to seven points at 41-34.

A Barnes layup pushed the Sycamore lead back to 12 at 46-34 but the Aces stayed within shouting distance over the first 10 minutes of the latter stanza when four more tallies from Smith made it a 7-point deficit once again.

The lead remained around 10 for the Sycamores until they pushed it 65-52 with three minutes on the clock.  Freshman Noah Frederking cut the gap to ten at 67-57 before a Taylor jumper inside the 2-minute mark made it a 67-59 game.   The run continued as the a Frederking steal led to a Smith trey, which got the Aces within four.  With 33 ticks left, Simmons hit an and-one that made it a 68-66 game.  Unfortunately for UE, three out of four ISU free throws found the bottom of the net in the final 30 seconds as the Sycamores escaped with the 71-66 win.

“We got a few stops and were really able to get within two at the end.  It was all about getting stops,” senior Blake Simmons said.  “We really have to watch our hands and not commit fouls, we let them get to the line 31 times, which is a lot.  We showed a lot of fight; we dug ourselves a big hole, but there are definitely a few positives to look at.”

Defense was the name of the game on Wednesday as the Aces were held to 34.6% shooting while ISU finished at 37.7%.  The Sycamores won the battle on the glass by a 43-35 margin.

Evansville is on the road for the next two contests.  The first leg of the trip has the Aces in Peoria, Ill. to take on Bradley in a 7 p.m. contest on Saturday before the squad meets Valparaiso for the first time as members of the MVC on January 24.