K.J. Riley leads UE men to overtime win


Newcomer K.J. Riley scored a career-high 22 points while hitting 14 free throws to send the University of Evansville men’s basketball team to an exciting 78-74 overtime win over Austin Peay on Saturday afternoon at the Ford Center.

“We have a well-rounded team, any of our guys can be the leading scorer any night,” senior Duane Gibson said after the game.

Riley hit four field goals, but did his damage at the line for the Purple Aces (9-2).  He hit a career-best 14 out of 17 from the line on his way to the career game.  Seniors Blake Simmons and Duane Gibson also played huge roles for the short-handed UE squad.  Simmons finished with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting while playing a season-high of 42 minutes.  Gibson went 7-of-8 from the line on his way to a solid 17-point day.  It was his top scoring output of the season.

“We showed that anyone can step up as long as we compete, play hard and listed to what the coaches say,” Riley said following his career game.  “The energy off our leaders really helped me.  They told me to compete and have fun.”

Head coach Marty Simmons was proud of Riley’s effort.

“KJ is an unorthodox player.  He just finds ways to contribute”, Simmons said.  “He did a lot of his damage at the end of the shot clock.”

Austin Peay (4-6) was led by a 30-point game from freshman Terry Taylor.  His total was just two behind the Ford Center record for a UE opponents, which was set by current NBA player and former Murray State guard Cameron Payne.

UE was first on the board as Duane Gibson posted an old-fashioned 3-point play, but Austin Peay used a 9-0 run over the next three minutes to take a 9-3 lead.  Four APSU players scored in the run.  Six minutes in, a bucket by Terry Taylor gave the Governors their largest lead at 15-7.

Missing their top two scorers, the Aces found their groove midway through the first half, going on a 14-2 run, capped off by a Blake Simmons triple, to go up 21-17 at the 8:42 mark.  K.J. Riley had five points in the run.  Another Simmons triple with 3:18 on the clock saw UE take its largest edge of the period at 33-25.

Austin Peay rallied in the final minutes as an 8-0 run tied the game right up at 33-33.  They had a chance to take the lead on their final possession of the half, but a turnover gave the ball back to UE with 2.7 seconds left.  A great play call saw freshman Noah Frederking get the ball at half court and bank in a long 3-pointer to send the Aces to the half up 36-33.

Defense was the story in the second half as the teams combined to score just seven points in the first five minutes of play, leading to a 41-35 lead for the Aces as Frederking was true once again from outside.  The Governors hovered around and a Zachary Glotta three with 13:03 remaining cut the Evansville lead to just a pair at 46-44.

On the ensuing possession, Dalen Traore knocked down a pair of free throws to spur a 9-2 stretch that gave UE its biggest lead at 55-46.  Blake Simmons also had three points in the run.  The Aces lead continued to hold strong at seven points when another Simmons bucket made it a 60-53 game with 6:52 remaining.

That is when the APSU defense took over.  They held UE scoreless for a span of 6:02 while holding the Aces to 0-4 with three turnovers while notching eight in a row to go up 61-60.  Terry Taylor’s bucket with 1:48 left in the game put them on top.  Two more from the line by Riley ended the stretch before he hit another pair with 12 ticks on the clock to make it a 64-61 game.  Following a timeout, the Averyl Ugba heaved a three in the final seconds to tie it up at 64.

“I thought we did a lot of great things, but that is part of competition,” Coach Simmons explained.  “Give credit to Austin Peay, they made a great shot.  We defended it well, but they hit it.  Blake buried a big three for us in the first possession of overtime and that really helped us.”

Evansville did not let that deter them as Simmons opened up the overtime period with a triple.  UE would not give up that advantage over the five minute stanza.  The Aces outscored the Governors by a 14-10 mark in overtime on the way to their 9th victory of the season.

On the boards, UE finished with a 33-31 edge while the team also outshot the Governors, 46.9% to 45.2%.  The guys are back in action on Sunday afternoon with a 3 p.m. tip against Midway at the Ford Center.