Missouri State senior Camyn Boone tallied a game high 26 points and snagged 10 rebounds in the fifth and final double-double of his career, but Evansville made 13-of-14 free throws in the second half and pulled away late in a 66-56 quarterfinal win over the Bears in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament here Friday.
Boone converted 12-of-21 shots and helped the Bears out-rebound the Purple Aces by a 39-38 margin. He played 32 minutes and finished with the third-best scoring effort ever by a Bear at Arch Madness.
Evansville (24-8) completed the three-game season sweep over MSU and advances to Saturday’s semifinal against the winner of Indiana State and Illinois State.
Egidijus Mockevicius led four Evansville players in double figures with 12 points and 18 rebounds, while D.J. Balentine scored 21 points, including a pair of clutch 3-pointers in a pivotal stretch late in the game.
The Bears (13-19) rallied from a 34-27 deficit early in the second half with a 7-0 run scored exclusively by Boone in the span of two minutes to knot the score at 34. Chris Kendrix tied the game again on MSU’ next possession with a put-back bucket at the 15:26 mark.
The next 10 minutes showed Missouri State’s grit as the Springfield club kept counter-punching every Purple Aces’ run. Clutch scores from Boone, freshmen Ryan Kreklow and Robin Thompson and the Valley’s top newcomer Dequon Miller kept MSU within 48-45 of the lead with just under 10 minutes to play.
But 3-pointers by Balentine on back-to-back Evansville possessions pushed UE ahead by nine points at the 5:30 mark, and later a key trey by Mislav Brzoja gave Marty Simmons’ squad a 58-48 lead with 2:08 remaining.
For their part, the Bears never caved. Miller responded with his 57th 3-pointer of the season, and later got to the glass to keep the Bears within seven points of the Aces down the stretch. He would finish with 11 points.
In the final minute Kreklow dropped in his second trey of the game to make it 62-56 with 29 ticks showing, but Evansville converted four straight free throws from there to warp the final margin to 10 points.
MSU made more field goals than the Aces, going 24-of-61 (.393) from the field, but struggled when it got a rare chance at the line. The Bears were just 4-of-10 (.400) at the stripe, made just 2-of-6 in the second half and missed four of their last five charity shots in the clutch.
Evansville, which came into the game making 49.9 percent of its shots for the season, was held to just 23-of-57 (.404) from the field and 5-of-15 (.333) from bonus distance. But the Aces capitalized on their free throw chances which were ample in comparison, knocking down 15-of-18 (.833) for the game and 13-of-14 (.929) in the second half.
Jaylon Brown, who finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds, made 7-of-8 from the stripe to lead all players, while Adam Wing was 4-for-4, all in the final minute.
Missouri State finished with 7 blocked shots, including two by Obediah Church who finished his freshman campaign with 50 rejections. He finished with 8 rebounds.
Also noteworthy was a gutsy 18-minute appearance from MSU senior Dorrian Williams who insisted on dressing out for what would be his final career game. After missing the last eight games with a knee injury, Williams came off the bench to finish with a rebound and a steal while moving over 3,100 career minutes, a feat achieved by just eight Missouri State players in program history.