CHICAGO — D.J. Balentine drained a floater with 11 seconds left Sunday as Evansville defeated Loyola, 74-73, at Gentile Arena.
The Aces are now 5-1 against the Ramblers since Loyola joined the Missouri Valley in 2013.
Loyola (12-14, 5-9 MVC) had no answer for Egidijus Mockevicius in the first half. The 6-foot-10 senior had no trouble getting deep post positioning on Loyola’s bigs. While Loyola succeeded in limiting guard D.J. Balentine, the Valley’s leading scorer, Mockevicius carried the Aces in the first half with 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting, seven rebounds and three blocks. He also grabbed offensive rebounds on two of this three misses from the field.
Evansville (20-7, 9-5 MVC) struggled once Loyola did a better job fighting for post positioning in the second half. Mockevicius still finished with an absurd stat line of 24 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks. However, his neutralized role after halftime allowed for…
…An admirable comeback, but it was not enough. Loyola trailed by as many as 19 points early in the second half and did not get within single digits until the final four minutes.
The Ramblers, aided by a technical foul on Evansville coach Marty Simmons, made a huge push in the closing minutes and took a 73-72 lead on a layup by forward Montel James with 31 seconds left.
Balentine came right back with a deuce in the lane, and Loyola guard Milton Doyle’s game-winning attempt at the buzzer caught iron.
Here’s that last offensive possession for Loyola. Not a bad look. pic.twitter.com/1Z4RdoUd3G
— The Catch and Shoot (@Catch_N_Shoot) February 14, 2016
Loyola held Balentine to 16 points on rough 5-of-16 shooting, but in the end the Evansville star still got the best of the Ramblers.
Something about snow storms brings out the best in Devon Turk. Turk dropped 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting to lead Loyola. He also scored a career-high 30 points two seasons ago against Missouri State during the infamous Polar Vortex.
Jaylon Brown continued to show off he’s one of the MVC’s most improved players. The Evansville guard shot only 3-of-9 from the field but used 6-of-6 free throw shooting to tally 12 points. He also had five assists and no turnovers, which is highly impressive because Loyola forces turnovers at a higher rate than anyone else in the Valley aside from Wichita State.
Brown, who had to take over full-time point guard duties after Duane Gibson injured his knee, is now averaging 10.9 points and 2.9 assists this season.
Evansville has consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time since the mid-1990s. The Aces eclipsed the 20-win mark in the 1991-92, 1992-93 and 1993-94 campaigns but had not won more than 18 games in consecutive seasons since then.