The Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) kicked off its playoff tournament on March 2 in Saint Louis. The winner of the tournament earns an automatic bid to the NCAA national tournament, and teams that struggled in the regular season get one last chance to add a trophy to their cases.
The first game featured the University of Evansville and Indiana State University, the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds, respectively. The Purple Aces came into the night 15-16, 6-12 in MVC play. The Sycamores were 11-19, 5-13 in MVC play. Evansville defeated Indiana State 83-72.
The Purple Aces caught the Sycamores off guard early, jumping to a 20-6 lead. For the entire first half, there was no looking back. At one point the Purple Aces led 34-17. Evansville senior guard Jaylon Brown led all scorers with 15 points. Junior guard Duane Gibson also chipped in 11 points, already four points above his regular season average. The Sycamores, however, could not get anything going, shooting a mere 21 percent from the field.
The Sycamores, try as they might, could not close the gap in the second half. They got as close as six points with just under a minute left, but it was too little too late. Costly turnovers at the very end, including a forced jump ball on a loose ball scramble by the Purple Aces put the game out of reach. The time expired with the ball in Evansville’s hands, and with it, the Sycamores’ hopes of making MVC magic were dashed.
Brown led all scorers, with 27 points. Brenton Scott led the Sycamores with 17 points. With the win, the Purple Aces earned a quarterfinals matchup against the first overall seed Illinois State Redbirds. That game is scheduled for March 3 at 12:00 p.m.