EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Egidijus Mockevicius scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead Evansville past Northern Arizona for a 71-65 victory in the championship game of the College Insider.com Tournament on Thursday night.
It was the 20th double-double of the season for Mockevicius, who helped Evansville (24-12) win its first postseason title since becoming an NCAA Division I program in 1977.
“It was a very physical game.” Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. “We lost a lot of games during the season like tonight that were tough, physical, and grind it out. I liked the way we played tonight.”
D.J. Balentine scored 16 points and was named the tournament MVP, while Jaylon Brown added 10 points for the Aces, who were playing at home in front of a crowd of 4,549.
“The fans gave us great support from minute one to minute 40. That was a huge advantage playing at home”, said Simmons.
Kris Yanku had 18 points and Ako Kaluna with 11 for Northern Arizona (23-15), which made it to a postseason title game for the first time and set a school record for victories.
This was the seventh year the College Insider.com Tournament was played, with Murray State winning last season.
The first half was a tightly contested, defensive battle. Evansville went on an 11-2 run in the last 3:51 to take an eight point lead 29-21 at the break.
“Evansville did a great job in the last four minutes in the first half taking control of the game,” said Northern Arizona coach Jack Murphy. “I thought our kids battled. We’ve been down a lot of times in this tournament and were able to pull it out for a win.”
The Lumberjacks took their biggest lead of the game at 56-51 with 5:39 remaining. But Evansville closed out on a 20-9 run, holding Northern Arizona to just one basket the rest of the game.
“We had a five point lead with five minutes to go”, said Murphy. “But we just couldn’t close it out. Our men have accomplished things that have never been done in school history.”
Balentine and Mockevicius were joined by Adam Wing of Evansville on the CIT All Tournament Team. Aaseem Dixon, Quinton Upshur and Yanku made it from Northern Arizona.
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