SIU loses nail-biter to Evansville in battle for second-place

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

Senior guard Anthony Beane broke out of his scoring slump in a big way, but the Dawgs fell to the Purple Aces in overtime, 85-78, Thursday at SIU Arena.

SIU junior guard Leo Vincent hit a 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left in regulation to put the Dawgs up three, but after a series of timeouts, Evansville senior guard D.J. Balentine hit a three to tie the game and send it to overtime. 

In the extra period, Evansville shot 4-4 from the floor to close out the game.

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MORE: What we learned from SIU’s loss to Evansville | Photos from SIU – Evansville

Saluki coach Barry Hinson said after the game the team was upset about the loss.

“This one hurt a lot,” he said. “Thirteen guys in that locker and some of them were crying … I look at that as a good thing.” 

With a three-point lead and three fouls to give, Hinson said the plan was to foul the ball-handler.

After Vincent’s 3-pointer, the Aces used two timeouts to advance the ball up the court and, coupled with two Saluki timeouts, SIU had four chances to foul. The Salukis did not foul on any possession.

“We were going to foul, all four timeouts,” Hinson said. “We talked about how to foul, how to reach with one hand. I went and talked to both officials and told them we were going to foul. [That’s] the toughest question of all, ‘Why didn’t we foul?’ I don’t have an answer.”

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His second-half buzzer-beater was his second of the game after hitting one to close out the first half as well.

The Salukis led by as many as eight points in the second half, including a seven-point lead with 3:31 left.

“We lost the game when D.J. made the three,” he said. “The game was over then.”

Evansville was led by Balentine and junior guard Mislav Brzoja, who each had 25 points for the Aces. Beane finished with a game-high 30.

Beane finished the first half with 18 points and he passed Steve Middleton for sixth in the SIU career points list as SIU led by as many as 13. He now has 1,735 career points. 

Balentine and Brzoja combined for 21 points in the first half.

“It’s not the Balentine story tonight, it’s the Brzoja story,” Hinson said.

Brzoja picked up the slack that was left by All-Missouri Valley Conference team preseason selection Egidijus Mockevicius, who had 10 points and eight rebounds. He came into Thursday’s contest averaging 17 points and 14.5 rebounds per game.

“I thought [Bola Olaniyan] did a great job,” Hinson said. “You’re talking about the nation’s leading rebounder and Bola and Ibby [Djimde] collectively hold this guy to eight rebounds.” 

Olaniyan had nine points and eight boards.

SIU (18-4, 7-2 Missouri Valley Conference) is tied with Evansville (18-4, 7-2 MVC) for second-place and plays next at 3 p.m. Sunday at Northern Iowa. 

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