Missouri State held the Missouri Valley Conference’s top scorer to just 7 points and 2-for-12 from the field, but it was D.J. Balentine’s bank shot with 5.8 seconds remaining that was the difference as Evansville clipped the Bears, 56-54, Wednesday at JQH Arena. The Purple Aces were held to their third-lowest field-goal percentage of the season (.400).
Missouri State, which played without the services of its top scorer Marcus Marshall due to a team suspension, had four players in double figures, including 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists by Dorrian Williams. Christian Kirk added 12 points, freshman Chris Kendrix contributed 10 points and 5 rebounds in his return to the starting rotation, and Tyler McCullough notched 11 points for the Bears.
The Bears (8-9, 2-3) dropped their third straight league game despite matching the Aces on the boards, 31-31, after getting out-rebounded 8-0 in the early going. MSU finished 20-for-55 (.364) from the field, 2-of-13 (.154) from long range and 12-of-14 (.857) at the stripe with 10 turnovers.
Evansville (13-4, 3-2), which was ranked third nationally in team field goal percentage, was just 16-for-40 (.400) from the field and 6-of-12 (.500) beyond the arc. But free throw chances in the first half pushed the Aces ahead early and helped them complete an 18-for-22 (.818) night from the foul line.
MSU heads back to the road for a Sunday matchup against No. 23 Northern Iowa at 3 p.m. The game will be played before a national TV audience on ESPNU.