ISU Rallies from 25-Point Deficit to Force OT; Falls at Evansville
Nick Zeisloft
Nick Zeisloft

Feb. 12, 2014

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Illinois State surmounted a 25-point second-half deficit at Evansville to briefly take a one-point lead - and ultimately - force overtime; however, the Purple Aces (11-15, 4-9 Missouri Valley Conference) held off ISU (13-12, 6-7 MVC) in OT, 104-98, Wednesday night at the Ford Center.

Nick Zeisloft netted a career-high 18 points - all after halftime - as the Redbirds outscored Evansville, 61-40, in the second half to force the extra period, marking ISU's first 60-point half since tallying 60 against Southeast Missouri State Nov. 28, 2009. Four other Redbirds joined Zeisloft in double-figures, including Bobby Hunter (17), Zach Lofton (16), Daishon Knight (15) and Reggie Lynch (12). Hunter also collected a career-best nine rebounds.

Meanwhile, Evansville's D.J. Balentine led all scorers with 38 points, and Egidiju Mockevicius netted 18 plus a team-high seven rebounds. The Purple Aces shot 51.9 percent from the field compared to ISU's 43.3 percent clip, and Evansville narrowly outrebounded the Redbirds, 38-34. Illinois State tallied 25 points off of turnovers compared to 19 by UE, and ISU earned a 20-8 advantage on second chance points.

Evansville started the game by making seven of its first eight shots to take a 17-9 advantage on a Balentine three-pointer. The Purple Aces extended their lead to 20 before Knight netted a layup which sparked a 6-2 Redbird run to pull ISU within 41-25 on a layup by Hunter at the 5:34 mark. However, UE maintained its double-digit advantage and led, 54-33, at halftime.

Illinois State started the second half on a 10-4 run, with eight points from Hunter during the stretch to pull within 58-43. ISU then cut Evansville's lead to 14, at 61-47. The Purple Aces responded by establishing a 25-point advantage on a Jaylon Moore layup with 10:10 remaining.

Lofton sparked the Redbird comeback with a three-pointer at the 7:55 mark. Zeisloft then netted nine points on ISU's ensuing 14-2 run to pull within 83-71. After the Purple Aces regained a 15-point lead with 4:47 remaining, Zeisloft buried another three-pointer to begin a 21-5 Redbird run that resulted in ISU's first lead of the game on a Zeisloft three-pointer to lift Illinois State ahead, 92-91, with 58 seconds remaining.

Balentine proceeded to hit three free throws to take a two-point advantage. However, Knight forced overtime with a pair of free throws at the 17-second mark, followed by a missed Balentine three-point attempt.

In overtime, Mockevicius gave Evansville the early lead, but Knight tied the game with two more free throws. After Balentine netted a jumper, Knight again tied the score, 98-98, on a layup. However, the Redbirds were held scoreless after that, as Evansville made every shot it attempted in overtime to secure its 104-98 victory.

ISU was on the brink of earning its largest comeback in program history, with the Redbirds previously overcoming a 21-point deficit to beat Butler Nov. 27, 1989.

With Illinois State's two-game Valley-road trip complete, the Redbirds return to Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena for two-straight home games, starting this Saturday, Feb. 15 against I-74 Rival Bradley. Tipoff between ISU and the Braves is scheduled for 6:05 p.m., and tickets are still available online by clicking here or by calling - (309) 438-8000 - or visiting the Illinois State Athletics ticket office.

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