ESTERO, Fla. – Jawaun Newton and Antoine Smith Jr. wrapped up strong weeks at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Wednesday’s 69-60 loss to Akron inside Hertz Arena.
Newton recorded the first double-double of his Purple Aces (2-6) career, finishing with 19 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. Smith was just behind with 16 points while adding three triples. Akron (3-3) saw Ali Ali lead all scorers with 20 points on a 6-for-8 shooting day that saw him convert all four 3-point attempts.
Akron hit two early 3-pointers to open the game while Evansville got on the board when Antoine Smith Jr. hit a triple. Trailing 6-5, UE took its first lead at the 16:20 mark when Jawaun Newton drained a three. The Zips responded with five in a row to go up by an 11-8 margin before Iyen Enaruna hit a layup to break a scoreless drought of close to four minutes.
With nine minutes remaining in the half, Evansville remained with a point (15-14) before the Zips added to their lead, embarking on an 11-2 run to open a 26-16 advantage. Ali Ali capped off the run with a 3-pointer as the Zips hit 7 of their first 9 long range attempts. Inside the final minute, the 8th triple by Akron cemented a 33-20 lead at the break. Evansville finished the half hitting two of their final 16 field goals.
Antoine Smith Jr. took matters into his own hands out of the break, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers to make it a 9-point game at 35-26. Following a technical foul on Akron, Newton hit both free throws before Smith knocked down a layup on the ensuing possession to get UE within five. A 9-0 run was completed with a Newton dunk on a runout. To make it a 35-32 score.
Akron regrouped to get back on track, scoring 11 of the next 13 points to retake their double figure lead with a 46-34 lead inside of the 10-minute mark. Just over a minute later, a 3-point play by Newton got his team back within seven before Akron answered to push their edge back to double figures. Evansville continued to fight, hitting 5 out of 6 field goal attempts with the contest entering the final four minutes, but the Zips continued to answer and held a 12-point lead at the 3:33 mark.
Evansville showed its heart and fought back with every possession and it showed with Shamar Givance and Newton scoring three each to cut the gap to six (62-56) with 2:30 remaining, but they would not get closer with Akron clinching the 69-60 victory.
UE finished the game shooting 37.3% from the field while Akron shot 48.8%. One of the big positvies for UE came on the boards as they grabbed 12 offensive rebounds.
Next up for Evansville is a trip to Eastern Illinois for a 1 p.m. game on Sunday.