Lofton’s 3-pointer with 1:08 left in overtime proved to be the
difference and gave him 22 points on the night, which set a career
high. He was joined in double figures by Daishon Knight, who scored
14 of his 16 points in the second half to help lead the Redbirds to
the win, and Bobby Hunter with 10 points rounded out a trio of ISU
players in double figures.
The two teams came out firing, changing the lead three times
through the first four minutes of the game. D.J. Balentine led the
way for Evansville with a trio of 3-pointers, but Lofton connected
from 3-point range twice, and Reggie Lynch scored twice to give the
Redbirds a 17-16 advantage. Balentine would go on to finish the game
with 22 points to lead a quartet of Purple Aces in double figures.
Evansville took the lead back quickly out of the break with a
quick 4-0 run to make the score 20-17. A 3-pointer from the corner
by Tony Wills on Illinois State’s first possession out of the
timeout knotted the score at 20-20 with 11:32 left in the half. The
Aces took the lead right back and jumped out to a four-point lead,
before consecutive dunks by John Jones tied the game at 26-26 a
The back-and-forth action continued, with a layup from Jaylon
Brown putting the Aces back up by four points at 34-30 with five
minutes remaining, before a jumper by Knight cut the lead back to a
basket. A jumper by Adam Wing extended the lead back to four points
for Evansville, but Jamaal Samuel connected from 3-point range for
just the second time this season to cut the lead to one at 36-35. A
jumper by Hunter gave the Redbirds the lead back at 37-36, but a
3-pointer by Tyler Ptacek 25 seconds later gave the Aces the
advantage once again at 39-37.
Lofton’s third 3-pointer of the half changed the lead for the
ninth time in the first 20 minutes and put the Redbirds back up
40-39, and a layup by Wills seconds later gave ISU a three-point
cushion at 42-39. A free throw from Blake Simmons with a minute left
cut the Redbird lead to two points, but neither team scored over the
final minute of the half as ISU took a 42-40 lead into the locker
Illinois State maintained a single-digit lead through the first
eight minutes of the second half, leading by six points at 52-46,
while Evansville struggled from the field and failed to score for
over four minutes of play. The Aces eventually cut the lead to two
points at 54-52 after a layup by Brown with 11 minutes left in the
game and had a chance to tie the score, but the Redbirds got a stop
and extended the lead back out to six points at 58-52 after a layup
by Wills and tip-in by Hunter with just over eight minutes
[to top of second column]
The Aces answered with a 9-2 run and took their first lead
since the 2:10 mark of the first half when Simmons connected
from 3-point range to give Evansville a one-point edge at 61-60.
Two free throws on the next ISU possession from Lofton resulted
in the 11th lead change of the game, but Simmons fired right
back with another 3-pointer to give the Aces the lead back at
64-62 with 3:56 left to play.
A jumper from Knight knotted the score at 64-64, but a 3-pointer
from Balentine swung the game in Evansville’s favor at 67-64 seconds
later. Not to be outdone, Knight tied the game at 67-67 with 2:47
left with a 3-pointer of his own. Both teams had chances to take the
lead over the next two minutes, but it was a 3-pointer from
Balentine with 33 seconds left that put the Aces up 70-67.
Lofton had a great look at a 3-pointer to tie the game on
Illinois State’s next possession, but the ball rimmed out and
Evansville grabbed the rebound, forcing Illinois State to foul.
Balentine took the inbounds pass in the corner but was trapped and
threw the ball away. Kaza Keane corralled the loose ball and found
Knight, who drained a 3-pointer to tie the game at 70-70 with eight
seconds left. A foul by Keane with three seconds left gave the Aces
the ball out of bounds, but the inbounds pass to Balentine could not
be handled and the game headed into overtime.
Each team scored to begin the overtime period, before a pair of
free throws from Wills and a layup by Knight put the Redbirds up by
four points at 76-72 with 2:47 left. Ptacek hit from 3-point range
to cut the lead to one at 76-75, but Lofton answered with a
3-pointer of his own to put the Redbirds up 79-75 with 1:08 left.
Ptacek continued his hot shooting for Evansville and cut the lead
back to one point at 79-78 with 51 seconds left. A missed 3-pointer
by Lofton with 11 seconds left gave the Aces a chance to win the
game, but a 3-point attempt at the buzzer from Balentine was too
strong and ISU held on for the one-point overtime victory.
Illinois State returns to action Saturday, when the Redbirds hit
the road to take on Drake. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., and
the game will be broadcast live on Comcast SportsNet Chicago with
Kurt Pegler and Bob Morris on the call from the Knapp Center in Des
news release received from
Illinois State University]