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ISU Prepares for Creighton Saturday

Arch Madness continues in St. Louis.
Devonte Brown led Indiana State with 11 points off the bench and provided the play of the game on defense as the buzzer sounded as Indiana State earned a berth into the semifinals of the MVC Tournament with a thrilling 51-50 victory over Evansville in front of 14,567 fans at the Scottrade Center.

Indiana State improved to 18-13 while Evansville fell to 18-14. The Sycamores improved to 2-1 in the MVC Tournament against the Purple Aces, earning their first quarterfinal victory since a 2011 win over Evansville by the score of 52-50.

Head coach Greg Lansing improved to 5-1 in MVC Tournament play and is 2-1 in the quarterfinals. He will take a 1-0 record in MVC semifinals into Saturday's 2:35 p.m. (ET) tipoff against No. 1 Creighton.

While Jake Odum hit the game winner in the 2011 MVC Tournament which began the Sycamores' run the championship, this time it was Justin Gant who hit 1-of-2 charity tosses with two seconds remaining to put the Sycamores ahead for good. Gant's free throws followed a pair of misses by Troy Taylor with the score tied at 50 and 22 seconds on the clock.

After Gant hit his free throw, Ned Cox missed a lay-up that was blocked by Brown at the buzzer as the Sycamores secured the win.

Brown led the team with 11 points, which was one point shy of his career-high. The only other Sycamore to reach double figures was RJ Mahurin who scored 10. Jake Kitchell tied a career-best with nine points.

Indiana State held a 35-34 edge in rebounding, including a team-best six from Gant and Brown. Jake Odum had five points but led the team with four assists. ISU hit 18 field goals in the game with 10 assists while the Purple Aces had just six assists against seven turnovers in the game.

The Sycamore bench scored 30 of its 51 total points. ISU was 18-of-47 from the field in the contest (38.3 percent) while they limited Evansville to 20-of-56 shooting (35.7 percent). 

The Purple Aces leveled a game that saw the Sycamores leading 27-25 at the half less than a minute into the second stanza, but Jake Odum hit a jumper with 18:19 remaining to put ISU ahead 29-27. Odum then continued his rebound from a scoreless first half with a 3-pointer with 17:18 remaining which staked the Sycamores to a 32-29 advantage.

After Ned Cox got the Purple Aces within point at 32-31, the Sycamores scored nine of the next 12 points to move ahead 41-34 with 12:46 remaining in the game and forced Evansville to use a timeout. Jake Kitchell scored seven of those nine points over the stretch and his lay-up with 12:46 on the clock gave him nine for the contest.

Mahurin kept the Sycamores rolling along with a 3-pointer at the 10:57 mark to stake ISU to a 44-34 lead. Evansville countered with five points until a row until Manny Arop scored his points of the game on a long jumper with 8:23 remaining to stretch the ISU cushion out to 46-39. DJ Ballentine then hit a pair of 3-pointers in succession to get to within 46-45 of the Sycamores with 7:19 remaining.

A conventional 3-point play by Troy Taylor with 6:18 remaining completed a long run by the Purple Aces and gave then a 48-46 lead. Mahurin hit a jumper with 5:44 remaining which knotted the game and Arop scored his first points of the contest on a pair of free throws with 4:32 left to give the Sycamores a 50-48 advantage. Ballentine hit a jumper with 3:04 left in the game to even the score at 50.

Evansville scored the first four points of the game, but RJ Mahurin struck first for the Sycamores as he drained a 3-pointer with 16:27 left in the first half off a feed from Odum which trimmed the Purple Aces lead down to 4-3. After a defensive stop, Dawon Cummings was fouled sending him to the free throw line where he hit a pair of charity tosses to give ISU its first lead at 5-4 at the 15:17 mark.

Lucas Eitel buried a second-chance 3-pointer with 11:08 left in the first half to knot the score at 12 before the Purple Aces scored four points consecutively. Mahurin was fouled in the act of shooting a trey at the 8:21 mark and hit 2-of-3 free throws to trim the Evansville advantage down to 16-14.

Brown scored consecutively for the Sycamores as ISU took an 18-17 lead at the 4:06 mark of the opening stanza which forced Evansville to burn a timeout. After the break, the Purple Aces scored four points in a row to reestablish a three-point advantage at 21-18 until Brown kept his scoring streak alive with a pair of free throws at the 2:56 mark trim the cushion down to 21-20.

He continued his stellar half by scoring eight in a row for the Sycamores, including a lay-up with 2:29 left to get within 23-22. Gant put Indiana State ahead with a lay-up with 1:49 remaining and a trey by Brown ended a streak for him at the end of the first half in which he scored 11-of-13 ISU points and the Sycamores enjoyed a 27-23 lead with just under a minute to go.

Colt Ryan grabbed a loose ball and scored a lay-up with 24 seconds left before the break and ISU came up empty on its final possession as the Sycamores held a 27-25 lead.

Brown led ISU with 11 points in the first half, just one point shy of his career high.

The Purple Aces were led in scoring by Egidijus Mockevicius with 11 points. Colt Ryan, who scored 31 one week ago against Indiana State in Evansville, was limited to eight points and no points in the second half.

No. 5 Indiana State will now take on No. 1 Creighton the first semifinal of the MVC Tournament on Saturday, March 9 inside the Scottrade Center. Tip-off is set for 2:35 p.m. (ET) and will be televised live on MVC TV as well as ESPN3 outside of the Valley's six-state footprint.

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