Behind D.J. Balentine’s 21 points, Evansville defeats Missouri State

By Peyton Wesner

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Three wins over three days; the epitome of a champion.

Game one of a three contest journey to become Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Champions kicked off for D.J. Balentine and the Evansville Purple Aces on Friday as they were met with a very talented Missouri State Bearssquad.

Although Camyn Boone really seemed to get the best of All-MVC 1st teamer Egidijus Mockevicius in regard to offense, Evansville’s backcourt of Balentine, Jaylon Brown, and Adam Wing overmatched Dequon Miller, Chris Kendrix, and Ryan Kreklow in a 10-point victory.

 Back and forth early, both squads score totals soared into double-figures as a total of 30 points was posted before the first media timeout (18-12 UE). The previously mentioned star post players both had six for their individual squads as they went right at each other in a war-zone of the paint.

However, even with the Purple Aces scoring on almost ever possession, they were unable to really increase their lead for the first ten minutes. Yet, all of that changed when Balentine started to find his groove with five of a 7-0 mini-spurt, which supplied a ten-point lead (27-17 UE).

Here we go, just like in Evansville, the Purple Aces were going to pull away in route to a comfortable win. 

But, they didn’t.

Even with two great offensive weapons like Balentine and Mockevicius, Marty Simmons’ group concluded the first twenty minutes 1-for-16 from the field! How? That no one is sure of, as the Purple Aces received many very good looks at the cylinder that just didn’t fall home.

Because of Evansville’s shooting slump, the Bears were able to rally despite not shooting it much better in comparison. In fact, neither team made a basket or scored a point for the final 2:07! Thus, the Purple Aces still controlled a 4-point edge (29-25 UE).

Exactly like the first half, Evansville and Missouri State’s offenses continued to throw points on the board despite the end of half struggles before. Though, the Bears did it at a better clip for a 9-5 Camyn Boone run knotted the game at 34.

Too bad they couldn’t take the lead.

In a common theme of Friday’s third quarterfinal, Missouri State competed and stayed within striking distance; however, they never were able to seize the lead. Therefore, the Purple Aces regained a gap between them and their opponent after the fifth tie of the bout with a 6-0 shuffle (42-36 UE).

Yes, the Bears did hunt down Evansville on multiple occassions, in order to pull within three (for example, Ryan Kreklow’s three pointer at the 10:25 mark and Dequon Miller’s layup three minutes later), but two consecutive treys by D.J. Balentine was the final bullets considering the seventh seed never pulled any closer than six for the remaining 5:32.

2015-16 MVC Newcomer of the Year Dequon Miller did all he could in the final 5:32 to give Missouri State a sliver of a chance (He had 6 of his 11 poind in the segment), but the Purple Aces took care of business at the charity stripe by making all eight of their free throws in the final minute.

Boone Boone Pow

Playing for the right to have one more collegiate game, Missouri State senior Camyn Boone put every ounce of energy and effort into extending his season.

Unfortunately, it did not transpire.

Going up strong and right at All-MVC 1st teamer Egidijus Mockevicius, the 6’6″ two-year Bear (5 inches shorter than his counterpart) started the contest similar to how Chris Kendrix did against Bradley, by single-handedly taking on all five of the opposition. Later, nine more of Boone’s game-high 26 rallied his group quickly in the second half. His ten rebounds clinched his fourth double-double of the season.

Really, it was just my teammates getting me involved, and shots were falling. We were trying to get Mock (Egidijus Mockevicius) in foul trouble.

—Camyn Boone upon being asked about his great performance.

The Missouri State Bears finished the season 13-19 (9-11)

A Historical Performance

As someone who has not missed an the Evansville Purple Aces game this year, allow me to say how quietly Egidijus Mockevicius puts together double-doubles. Moreover, one will look up with four minutes left in the second half and see he has at least 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Or 18 rebounds!  Obviously with him as the nation’s leader in rebounds per game, “Iggy“gets a lot of attention for his prowess; yet, he took it to the nect level with 18 as it is the most since the tournament moved to St. Louis. Mockevicius also added 12 points on the night and 1 block.

Other great contributions came in the form of the conference’s leading scorer D.J. Balentine, who had 21 points and 5 rebounds, Jaylon Brown (11 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists), as well as Adam Wing (13 points and 4 rebounds).

He Said It (Part I)

It was big time. I felt like I owed it to my brothers in that locker room. We developed a relationship beyond basketball” said Missouri State senior Dorrian Williams on returning from an eight game absence due to needing microfracture surgery in his knee. “I don’t feel any pain, man. I don’t know. I haven’t sat down long enough to feel it yet.

He Said It (Part II)

I think the guys have a bright future. I think they have a really good core going forward, and I think they’ll be a contender moving forward. I really think it’s not just about the talent they have in the locker room, but I feel they have the right guys.

—Camyn Boone on the team’s future.

He Said It (Part III)

Well, he’s had an outstanding year” said Missouri State Bears’ head coach Paul Lusk when asked about Dequon Miller’s ability to stuff the stat-sheet in a consistant matter. “We talked about it the other day. Early in the season, he had talent, but he just — he wasn’t ready for what he was about to go through. And he’ll tell you. So he’s really grown. He’s got a chance to be outstanding.

He Said It (Part IV)

Also, I’d like to say something about Dorrian. We have competed against him for four years, and you haye to see that happen to any player, but that guy is one of the most competitive guys we’ve played in the Missouri Valley Conference. What determination he showed to be out there playing tonight.

—Evansville Purple Aces’ head coach Marty Simmons on Dorrian Williams.

He Said It (Part V)

Definitely, like Coach said, we’re just extremely thankful just to advance to the semis. I know this senior class with D.J., Egidijus, and I, we’ve never made it to the semi-finals, but we’re thankful to be in the position we’re in.

—Evansville’s Adam Wing on what getting into the semi-finals means to the program.

The 24-8 (13-6) Evansville Purple Aces will face-off with in-state rival Indiana State tomorrow at 6 PM EST. The Purple Aces split the season series and lost their last game in Terre Haute by double-figures.

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