Needing a spark to break open a tight game, Khristian Smith provided just that for the Sycamores in their first road MVC contest of season as he scored 27 points as part of a 81-62 road victory over Evansville inside the Ford Center.
Indiana State won its fourth consecutive contest, including its fifth road contest to improve to 11-3, 2-0 MVC. The Sycamores are off to a 2-0 start in league play for the second consecutive season. Evansville fell to 7-8, 0-2 MVC.
Smith scored his 27 points by going 11-of-13 from the field and hitting all three of his 3-point attempts. Three of Smith's largest career outputs (28 at Belmont, 23 at Evansville and 20 at Morehead State) have all come on the road over the past two seasons.
Dawon Cummings tallied 22 points in the contest while Jake Odum had 12 points and Justin Gant finished with 10. Smith's 27 points and Cummings 22 points marks the first time since February 12, 2011 (Richard & Odum vs. Drake) that two or more Sycamores have scored over 20 points in a game.
The Sycamores improved to 45-4 under fourth-year head coach Greg Lansing when limiting teams to 63 points or less. Indiana State hit 27-of-52 from the field (51.9 percent) and were 8-of-16 from 3-point range (50 percent). In the rebounding wars, the Sycamores held a 34-26 advantage.
Gant hit a pair of 3-pointers around the 16 minute mark of the first half to get the Sycamores within 10-8 before D.J. Balentine tallied a 3-pointer in transition at the 14:44 mark to stretch the Evansville advantage out to 13-8.
The Purple Ace lead grew to 15-9 before a lay-up from Jake Kitchell followed by an open Arop jumper from the corner got the Sycamores within two points of Evansville at the 12:35 mark. A Brandon Burnett lay-up completed the 6-0 run and knotted the contest at 15 with 10:46 remaining in the opening stanza.
Evansville raced out to a 22-16 lead before Khristian Smith scored five points in a row and then Dawon Cummings drained an open 3-pointer himself to give the Sycamores an 8-0 run and a 24-22 advantage with 6:31 remaining to force a Purple Ace timeout.
From there, the Sycamores and Aces traded the lead on six consecutive possessions which was capped with the second 3-pointer of the first half by Smith at the 2:47 mark to push Indiana State ahead 31-29. A pair of Jaylon Moore free throws tied the contest again before Cummings hit a pair of free throws with 1:28 left before the half to stake the Sycamores to a 33-31 lead. The Sycamore defense stood tall on the final Evansville possession of the half and Smith scored his 13th point before the break on a jumper at the buzzer as the Sycamores held a 35-31 lead.
Smith continued his strong play after receiving the second half start on a second-chance bucket to stretch the Sycamore cushion out to 37-31. The Purple Aces drew within a point at 37-36, but back-to-back field goals from Odum and Cummings stretched the lead out to 41-36 just three minutes into the second half.
The Purple Aces scored four in a row to battle back to 41-40, but Jake Odum hit a pair of free throws and then Cummings drilled a 3-pointer at the 14:51 mark to stretch the advantage out to 46-40 and forced Evansville to call another timeout. Evansville would hit a pair of free throws before the Sycamores opened up some breathing room with a Cummings steal and dunk following by an Odum 3-pointer at the 13:07 mark to stretch the lead out to 51-42 and the Purple Aces called a timeout.
Smith answered a Purple Aces score with a jumper and a 3-pointer to reach the 20-point mark to stretch the lead out to 56-44 with 11:35 remaining in the contest. Odum was fouled in transition with 10:03 on the clock and buried the two free throws as the Sycamores found themselves up 58-45. UE answered with four in a row to get the Sycamore lead down to single digits before Gant hit a pair of free throws to reach double figures scoring and extend the lead out to 60-49.
Arop stretched the advantage out to 63-51 on a long jumper and the Cummings broke the press and drove to the basket for a lay-up with just over five minutes remaining and ISU head a 65-53 advantage. A Smith steal and breakaway dunk with just over three minutes remaining stretched the lead out to 69-53.
D.J. Balentine paced Evansville with 23 points.
Indiana State stays on the road for its next contest at Drake on Wednesday, January 8. Tip-off is set for 8:05 p.m. (ET).