Shockers fail Aces 80-58, advance to semifinals at 32-0

The Shockers keep breaking records and land new career highs as the team defeated the Evansville Purple Aces 80-58 in the quarterfinal round of the Missouri Valley Conference in Saint Louis, Mo.

Setting the new record for most blocks in a MVC tournament game, the Shockers finished the contest with 11 team blocks, six from senior Kadeem Coleby, creating a new career high for the center.

“Kadeem Coleby was tremendous at the back line,” Shocker head coach Gregg Marshall said. “He didn’t even play 20 minutes, and he blocked six shots. He’s really getting his timing down.”

At the beginning of the contest against Evansville, the team struggled on offense as they could not find the bottom of the net. Trading buckets-for-buckets, the Shockers held strong to the Purple Aces and were determined to change the outcome of the game.

Evansville guard D.J. Balentine gave the Shockers a run for their money as he finished the contest with 31 points, 17 came in the first half.

“You’ve got to give D.J. Balentine credit,” Marshall said. “He hit some incredible shots. When you score with the defense he was seeing tonight, you can score. He’s a big-time scorer. He’s only going to get better. I’m not looking forward to that.”

One of the Shocker’s goals was to keep Balentine from visiting the free-throw line.

“Big point for us was to keep Balentine off the line,” Marshall said. “He goes 14 times last night. He scored 30. He’s averaging 30 points in the tournament. At least we held him to six free throws, and that’s a key, and it should be a key because he gets so much focus and he scores a lot of points.”

The Shockers led the Purple Aces 41-31 at halftime.

The Shockers looked like a completely different team in the second half. The team tightened up their defense and put executed tense pressure in the front court.

“They are very physical,” Evansville guard Duane Gibson said. “That brings a lot of pressure on me and my teammates trying to get open, and just everybody. They are very physical on defense, which makes it a very good defense.”

Sharing the ball around the court, senior Cleanthony Early and sophomore Ron Baker finished the contest with 17 points each. Junior Tekele Cotton and senior Chadrack Lufile added 11, respectively. The team was noted for their unselfish play, with 13 assists at the final buzzer.

“I think I’m a scorer, but I love to see my teammates do well,” Early said. “We all feel the same way. We want to watch each other prosper and do good for the team. So we go out there and make it happen.”

The Shockers will play tomorrow afternoon against the winner of the Missouri State and Illinois State game at 1:35 p.m. in Saint Louis, Mo.