EVANSVILLE, Ind.- The Wichita State men's basketball team suffered their first loss in Missouri Valley Conference play to Evansville, 71-67, on Sunday night at the Ford Center.
Senior Malcolm Armstead led the way for the Shockers, scoring 21 points and handing out three assists. Cleanthony Early added 16 points for Wichita State.
Colt Ryan paced the Evansville attack with 24 points and eight assists. Troy Taylor added 12 points and six rebounds.
Neither team found an offensive rhythm
early on as the score was 4-4 at the first timeout of the game. Wichita
State (15-2, 4-1 MVC) held a 4-2 edge as the teams combined to hit just two of
the opening nine shots before a Ryan layup knotted the game up at 4-4. The
Shockers hit their next two buckets to take an 8-4 lead before the Aces scored
six in a row.
The defense of Evansville (11-6, 4-1 MVC) forced three-consecutive turnovers while Taylor hit three of his opening four attempts to take a 10-8 lead. Demetric Williams ended the stretch with a trey to put the Shockers back on top eight minutes in. Turnovers plagued the Shockers as they committed 11 while UE turned the ball over on just three occasions. WSU stayed in it thanks to a 20-10 rebounding lead in the opening stanza.
Ten lead changes and nine ties culminated in Evansville going to the break up 32-31. With two minutes remaining in the half, Malcolm Armstead, who was 6-8 in the half from the floor, knocked down his third trey to give WSU a 31-30 lead, but Egidijus Mockevicius countered with a bucket inside the final ten seconds to put the lead back in the Aces' hands.
Out of the break, Ehimen Orukpe hit a layup to give the lead back to WSU before the Aces fought back to take a 38-37 lead on a free throw by Ned Cox. The Shockers retook the lead and would hold it for the next six minutes, leading by as many as five (50-45). Cleanthony Early led a 5-0 WSU run as they grabbed their largest edge of the game. Evansville fought back quickly with an 8-2 stretch that led to a 53-52 UE lead inside of eight minutes remaining.
D.J. Balentine, who scored just six points in the last five games entering Sunday's contest, scored five in a row for UE as they retook the lead. With the game knotted at 56-56 with 5 minutes remaining, the Purple Aces posted their top run of the game, scoring five in a row, all tallies by Colt Ryan, to take their largest lead of the game before a 3-pointer by Cox gave UE a 64-58 edge with 1:48 left. With the lead standing at six with just over a minute left, the Shockers almost pulled off a miracle. Malcolm Armstead hit a layup to cut the deficit to four. On the inbound, Armstead recorded a steal as he found an open Early, who drained a three to cut the lead to one at 66-65 with 46 ticks remaining.
Evansville sunk three out of its next four free throws to open up a 69-65 advantage before it was cut to two on a Jake White bucket. The ensuing foul sent Ryan to the free throw line with 20 seconds left where he hit one out of two. Seconds later, White missed a three that would have tied the game and Lewis Jones responded on the other end, hitting a free throw that made it the final 71-67.
Wichita State shot 59.1% in the second half and 54.3% for the game while holding UE to 44.9% in the game. The top difference came in turnovers as UE forced 22 while committing just nine of its own. That led to 27 Aces points off the turnover while the Shockers notched just nine. WSU finished with a 36-21 rebounding advantage.
The Shockers are next in action on Wednesday, January 16 against Illinois State at Charles Koch Arena. Tip is set for 7 p.m.