EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE)
The University of Evansville basketball team puts its 7-1 record on the line on Saturday afternoon as Murray State comes to the Ford Center for a 1:05 p.m. tilt.
Tickets are still available by calling 812-488-ACES. They may also be purchased at the Ford Center prior to the game.
A gritty effort saw the Purple Aces grab a 65-62 road victory at Belmont on Tuesday. Entering the contest, the Bruins were 59-2 in their last 61 contests at Curb Event Center. After trailing by eight points at halftime, Evansville came out on fire in the second half, shooting 52.4% while holding Belmont to 31.3% in the latter half. D.J. Balentine led everyone with 25 points; he hit 10 of his 18 attempts and finished the night with 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Evansville is 7-1 for just the fourth time in the last 50 years following the win at Belmont on Tuesday. In 2008-09, the Aces matched the 7-1 start while UE was 12-1 to begin the 1967-68 campaign and 10-1 over the first 11 games of the 1981-82 season. A road win is always beneficial in the RPI and the victory at Belmont boosted UE in the RPI and Sagarin Ratings; as of Thursday, the Aces sit 38th in the latest Sagarin Ratings and 48th in the updated RPI.
Down 8 at the half at Belmont, UE fought back to earn a 65-62 win. It is the largest road halftime deficit UE has overcome since defeating Canisius on 12/26/13 after being down 9 at halftime. Since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, Evansville is 9-29 when facing a halftime deficit in a road contest. Compare that to the eight years prior - it took the Aces 73 games to win nine road games when trailing at the half; between 2002 and 2010, UE was 9-64 when losing on the road at the break.
The Ford Center has always been a shooter-friendly venue for the Aces, but this season has seen those numbers go up even more. Through three home contests, the Aces are hitting an unbelievable 62% of its attempts. Just as impressive at home has been the margin of victory, which is 35.3 points per game in the three contests. Evansville's home turnover margin also checks in at +9.0.
A pair of early fouls limited Egidijus Mockevicius to just four minutes in the first half at Belmont as the Bruins were able to make a run to take a 10-point lead before going to halftime up by eight. In the second half, Mockevicius played 18 out of 20 minutes, notched 8 points and 8 rebounds while blocking three shots to help the Aces earn the victory. By making both of his attempts, Mockevicius improved his season shooting to 72.7%, tops in the MVC and seventh in the nation.
For the first time this season, D.J. Balentine has pushed his season average over the 20-point mark as his game-high of 25 at Belmont put his season average to 20.5 PPG. The junior has scored 22 or more in each of the last four games while shooting 54.7% from the field (35/64); he has also knocked down 12 of his 23 3-point attempts. This week's Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week averaged 25 points while hitting six out of eight triples versus Wright State and IUPUI.
If there is such a thing as a sophomore slump, don't tell that to Jaylon Brown, who has made a steady jump from his freshman to sophomore campaign. Brown has been one of the most accurate shooters in the Valley, checking in at 60% for the season with 24 of his 40 shots being good; he ranks fourth in the MVC. Over the course of his last four games, Brown has made 16 of his last 22 attempts while scoring at least six points in each of those contests.
Murray State begins the weekend with a record of 5-4 after defeating Western Kentucky last weekend by a 93-81 final at CFSB Center in Murray, Ky. Cameron Payne leads MSU with 17.8 points per game, a tally that is second in the Ohio Valley Conference; he tied for the game high against the Hilltoppers with 24 while dishing out seven assists. Jarvis Williams has notched 15.7 points and tied Payne's tally of 24 versus WKU. The Racers do a good job of taking care of the ball, ranking second in the OVC and in the top 100 nationally with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.204.