For the first time since the 2015-16 season, the University of Evansville men’s basketball team clinched a top five seed in the Missouri Valley Conference, finishing the regular season with a 72-63 victory over Missouri State on Saturday night at the Ford Center.
Evansville (9-15, 7-11) enters Arch Madness as the #5 seed and is set to face the #4 Indiana State on Friday afternoon at 2:08 p.m. in St. Louis. Shamar Givance tied his career scoring high with 22 points on Saturday, knocking down 9 out of 16 attempts and four triples. He also led UE with seven rebounds. Jawaun Newton added 20 points while Evan Kuhlman recorded 17. Missouri State (16-6, 12-6 MVC) was led by a 22-point game from Isiaih Mosley.
“I did not doubt these guys. We ran into a tough stretch and kept fighting. If you are a basketball fan, you have to love this team – they are just fun,” UE head men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter said. “They are constantly trying to learn, grow and do the right thing. We just made a few adjustments today and our guys locked into it and made it happen.”
It was the “Evan Kuhlman Show” in the opening minutes of the game. The senior connected on his first three triples of the game to give his squad a 9-6 advantage. UE would extend that lead to 18-12 when Shamar Givance connected on a basket at the 12:45 mark. The Aces would hit one of their next six attempts but the Bears were only able to chop two points off of the lead.
When Jawaun Newton hit his first field goal, it led the Aces on a 7-0 run that pushed the advantage into double figures at 25-14. Givance recorded the other five points in the run, capping it off with a layup at the 7:51 mark. With the Aces up 27-16, Missouri State scored six in a row to get back within five tallies, but Evansville was able to counter, going back up by 10 (33-23) before a layup at the buzzer by Newton sent UE to the break with a 38-30 lead. Givance had 17 points in the opening stanza
Missouri State chopped the lead in half in the opening two minutes of the second half, but a turning point came from Noah Frederking. With the shot clock nearing the buzzer, the senior drove for a layup that was the start of an 11-0 run that gave the Aces a 49-34 lead. Kuhlman, Givance and Newton each followed with triples that made it a 49-34 contest with 15:21 remaining.
Evansville’s lead went as high as 18 points when another Kuhlman 3-pointer gave UE a 65-47 advantage with 5:27 on the clock. The Bears chipped away in the final minutes, getting as close as six points in the final seconds, but the deficit was too much to overcome with Evansville clinching the 72-63 win to wrap up the regular season. Devan Straub put an exclamation point on the win with a buzzer-beating triple.
The Aces outshot the Bears by a 51.0%-46.3% margin while it was MSU outrebounding the Aces by a final tally of 34-26.