Evansville, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - The championship game in the 2015 CollegeInsider.com Tournament is set for Thursday evening, as the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks pay a visit to the Evansville Purple Aces at the Ford Center.
Both teams come in having won 23 games in 2014-15, with Northern Arizona actually establishing a new school record for most wins in a season.
The Lumberjacks won their ninth straight home game by taking down NJIT on Tuesday night in the semifinals of the event, 68-61. It was the seventh victory in the last eights games overall for NAU, which is playing in the CIT Championship Game for the first time in history. The team's other wins in the tourney came against Grand Canyon (75-70), Sacramento State (78-73) and Kent State (74-73 OT).
Evansville claimed its fourth straight win by beating UT Martin in Tuesday's semifinal round, 79-66. The team's other triumphs in the tournament came against IPFW (82-77), Eastern Illinois (83-68) and Louisiana (89-82), and those came on the heels of a four-game losing streak and setbacks in seven of its previous 10 games overall. The Purple Aces improved to 7-2 in the CIT with Tuesday's win, and they are playing in their first championship game as well.
This bout marks the first meeting between these two schools in men's basketball.
Northern Arizona trailed visiting NJIT at the break, 33-26, but went on a tear over the final 20 minutes to prevail and keep its dream of a postseason championship alive. Despite going just 4-of-14 from 3-point range, Quinton Upshur scored a game-high 23 points, and he was joined in double figures by Aaseem Dixon with 19 points and Kris Yanku with 10. Jordyn Martin had been a much more productive offensive player in the previous outings for NAU, but it was his effort on the glass (17 rebounds) that helped the Lumberjacks grab a massive 56 boards in the game. The team shot just 30.3 percent from the floor, but held the Highlanders to 34.3 percent, which included a dismal 4-of-22 showing beyond the arc. A 21-11 edge in points at the foul line played a major role in the positive outcome for the home team.
As has been the case all season long, D.J. Balentine was on top of his game in Evansville's recent win over UT Martin, hitting four 3-pointers en route to a game-high 28 points. He was joined in double digits by Adam Wing (16 points) and Blake Simmons (13 points, career-high seven assists), and the team as a whole made good on 57.1 percent of its field goal attempts, which included an 8-of-19 effort out on the perimeter. Wing hit his first seven shots of the game for an EU squad that finished with significant margins in points in the paint (38-18), points off turnovers (17-9), fast break points (14-0) and bench points (16-9). The Aces logged 23 assists in the win, which was key considering the Skyhawks drained 13-of-27 3-point tries.