EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) D.J. Balentine scored 28 points to lead Evansville past UT Martin 79-66 on Tuesday night to advance to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament championship.
Adam Wing had 16 points and Blake Simmons added 13 for the Purple Aces (23-12).
''We were able to get stops and get baskets in transition,'' Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. ''We had a lot of guys play pretty well tonight''
Evansville will host Northern Arizona in the title game on Thursday night. The Aces will be seeking their first national postseason championship since winning the last of its five NCAA Division II titles in 1971.
Deville Smith scored 18 points to lead UT Martin (21-13), which finished one win short of tying the school record. Smith's scoring came on a career high six 3s for the Ohio Valley Conference's Skyhawks. Twymond Howard had 17 points and Alex Smith added 15.
''Evansville is a very good basketball team. They shot the ball extremely well,'' UT Martin coach Heath Schroyer said. ''We really could never get them stopped.''
The Missouri Valley Conference's Aces shot 32 for 56 (57 percent) with 23 assists against only nine turnovers.
''The flow of the game was real good, said Balentine. ''If we continue to play this way, it could be hard to beat us''
There were four ties and six lead chances in the first half, with the last tie at 28-all with 5:45 remaining. That's when Evansville took control.
Balentine scored the next seven points, and after Simmons' 3-point basket, Wing hit three straight buckets. Another basket by Balentine completed the 18-6 run that gave the Aces a 46-34 halftime lead.
''We had some costly turnovers and didn't convert on some shots. That was the big thing in that last five minutes,'' Schroyer said.
Evansville made the first 12 points of the second half to take their biggest lead at 58-34 with 16:08 remaining in the game.