Stories from the 65-63 nailbiter last night:
–Balentine got the call for the final play, but wasn’t able to get a good look at the basket. Sure, a 3-pointer from Blake Simmons wasn’t ideal, but Balentine was double-teamed off the screen at the top of the key and was forced to make a play. At the end of the game, the ball was in the right player’s hands — good for Marty Simmons to put faith in his playmaker — but ultimately, the shot wasn’t there.
–The game could’ve gotten out of hand early in the first half. UE committed six turnovers in the opening minutes but only found itself down by as many as 11 points. The Aces closed the gap to a point, thanks in part to a much better shooting percentage than the past two road games, before a 3-pointer put Murray State up by four at the break. After the early mishaps, UE committed just four turnovers the rest of the game while shooting 47.1 percent on the night.
–The interior was much more solid for the Aces than it probably has been all season. Even with Ryan Sawvell’s departure, UE had sophomore center Egidijus Mockevicius and junior forward Jaylon Moore step up last night. Mockevicius had his second consecutive double-figure game last night, posting 12 points and adding seven rebounds while Moore played 22 minutes in relief and chipped in 10 points. Moore was the Aces’ leading scorer (eight points) at halftime. UE held Murray State’s two big men, Jonathan Fairell and Jarvis Williams, to a combined 16 points, as well, and tied the Racers (32 each) in rebounding. Simmons said the rebounding was better than it had been in past road games.
–Stat to note: Without the 3-point line, the Aces would’ve won this game, 63-55. The Racers hit a season-high 10 3-pointers in the game (10-for-22).