By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Pittsburg State, in what head coach Kevin Muff called his team’s best game to this point, used a balanced scoring attack and a solid presence at the foul line to earn an 85-75 win over the Avila Eagles in the Freeman Sports Medicine/Chris Tucker Memorial Classic on Saturday night at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
The Gorillas (3-0) had five players in double figures and a sixth player just a point away.
Kaleb Porter, Courtney Ingram and Rico Pierrevilus each had 14 points while Marky Nolen added 13 and A. J. Adams had 10.
“This was our best game,” Muff said. “It’s because we played a quality opponent. The way Avila plays, we’re not going to see a lot of teams that execute as well as they do. They’re physical and tough and they’re going to guard you.
“To win it and kind of put it away in the last five minutes, I feel good about it.”
Avila led 59-58 after Lance Miller’s jumper with 8:39 remaining. But A.J. Adams’ three-point play sparked an 11-4 run over the next two minutes that gave the Gorillas a 69-63 lead.
Avila closed to within three points before the Gorillas put the game away.
In a game that saw a combined 57 fouls, Pitt State was 34-of-45 from the foul line. Ingram hit all 10 of his free throws while Pierrevilus was 5-for-5.
“That’s part of what we want,” Muff said of the 45 foul shots. “Freedom of movement is a big issue with officiating … get blocking calls, get to the line, that’s what we want. If we don’t get to the line in our offense, we’re not going to be very successful.”
Avila grabbed an early 17-5 lead before Pitt State — sparked by Jake Bullard’s three-point play and impressive dunk on back-to-back possessions — scored 15 straight points. Ballard, a freshman from Vinita, Okla, was 3-for-5 from the field and 3-for-4 from the line for nine points and had three assists.
“Jake is an energy guy. He is learning how to play in our system,” Muff said. “You can tell the game changes when he enters … he’s going to be a very good player for us.”
Pierrevilus scored all 14 of his points in the second half, leading a renewed Gorilla inside game after halftime.
“I thought tonight was an opportunity for our bigs to get more involved in our offense,” Muff said. “In the first half our bigs were 1-for-10. Second half, they kind of woke up a little bit and gave us more of what they can help us with.”
Avila (2-3) was led by Brandon Redmond’s game-high 17 points while Miller and Curtis Churchman each had 16.