EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE)
For the first time this season, the Purple Aces play back-to-back home games, hosting IUPUI on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Despite their close proximity, the teams have met just twice in their histories, including last season in Indianapolis as UE earned an 84-78 win
An 86-78 win over Wright State saw the Aces improve to 5-1 on the season as D.J. Balentine had a season-high 28 points and Egidijus Mockevicius scored a career-best 20. For the second year in a row, the Purple Aces have started the season off in strong fashion; after winning their first five games in 2013-14, UE is 5-1 to start this season. This marks the first time UE has started 5-1 in back-to-back seasons since 1986-87 and ‘87-88.
The Aces have one of the most versatile players in the nation in Egidijus Mockevicius and his numbers back that statement up. Mockevicius is the only player in the country to average 10 points per game, shoot 70% and average 9.7 rebounds. He is one of just six in the NCAA to shoot 70% and average double-digit points.
Mockevicius had the first 20-point game of his collegiate career against Wright State, hitting 8 out of 9 attempts to score an even 20. The leading rebounder in the MVC added to his numbers with 11 more caroms while his league-best shooting percentage increased to 72.3%, just outside the top ten in the nation.
Hitting 66.7 percent of their shots against Wright State, the Purple Aces improved their season shooting to an MVC-best 54%, that also checks in fifth in the country. It marked the second time in the Coach Simmons era that the Aces have hit that mark in a single game, on Nov. 13, 2010, UE also shot 66.7% in a victory over Oakland City.
IUPUI comes to the Ford Center with a 2-4 mark following a 66-63 loss to Georgia State on Saturday; the Jaguars two wins came against solid competition with a road win at Milwaukee and a home overtime triumph over Ball State. Marcellus Barksdale leads the way for IUPUI with an average of 10.8 points per game, he has taken a team-high 62 shots while playing 35.5 minutes per game, which is third in the Summit League.
Barksdale matched his career mark with 22 points against Georgia State while P.J. Boutte finished the game with 12 points and 8 assists. Last season marked just the second meeting between UE and IUPUI as the Aces took an 84-78 win at the Jungle; they have won both meetings in the series.
Over a 3-game span from Miami through Green Bay, D.J. Balentine hit 15 out of 47 shots; since then, he has done a full 180 and is back at his peak performance. In the last two games, the junior has averaged 25.5 points per game while hitting 17 out of 30 attempts. Balentine has also found his stroke from the free throw line; after starting the season hitting just 10 out of his first 17 tries, he has knocked down 10 out of the last 14 over the last two games.
Even though he is just six games into his Evansville career, Mislav Brzoja has shown that he can change the game at any time. Brzoja is the only player in the MVC to average 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. His awareness on the court is unparalleled and showed with his career-high of seven assists against Wright State.
The 1974 Aces football will be honored during the game. Going 8-2 that year, the team made it to the NCAA Playoffs for the first time in program history.