“I loved his mental approach tonight and that’s not always the case,” Marshall said. “But tonight I thought he was very disciplined and when he does that, man, he’s really good.”
Evansville (11-16, 4-10) learned its lesson the hard way.
Despite getting 19 points from D.J. Balentine, the MVC’s top scorer, and 19 points and 10 rebounds from Egidiju Mockevicius, it wasn’t quite enough to prevent a fourth loss in five games or a second straight this season to Wichita.
The Purple Aces did most of what they set out to do - shooting 51.1 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from 3-point range, made 15 of 16 free throws, limited the Shockers to only six offensive rebounds and kept challenging Wichita State right down to the final minutes.
But the turnovers, as they had all game, finally did them in.
“We didn’t turn it over in the press, we did it in the half-court and you have to take care of the basketball,” coach Marty Simmons said. “We’ve really got to learn, we’ve got to learn from that, and that’s one of our biggest deficiencies.”
The Purple Aces, however, only trailed 38-32 at the half and still found a way to fight back after falling into a 55-41 deficit early in the second half.
Mockevicius scored the first eight points in a 10-2 spurt that cut the deficit to 57-51 with 11:19 to go.
Early answered with five straight points and Evansville rallied again, getting as close as 65-60 with 6:10 left before throwing the ball away on an inbound pass that would have cut the deficit to three.
“They did a good job of changing defenses and I was trying to get a timeout,” Simmons said.
Instead, the Shockers got the ball back and forced two more turnovers during the decisive 13-4 run that finally sealed the victory.
“We were just focused on getting stops and it went in our favor,” VanVleet said. “We wanted to end it right there. After that possession, I think we got back on the right track.”