Basic info: Ohio (3-3) at Evansville (7-2), 8:05 p.m. CST Thursday at the Ford Center
Pregame story: Aces bring double dose of motivation into matchup with Ohio
Radio: WUEV 91.5 FM
Ohio: Javarez Willis (5-11, Sr., G, 15.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg); Maurice Ndour (6-9, Sr., F, 15.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg); Stevie Taylor (5-10, Sr., G, 7.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg); Mike Laster (6-4, Fr., G, 4.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg); Antonio Campbell (6-8, So., F, 10.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg).
Evansville: Duane Gibson (6-3, So., G, 5.0 ppg, 2.7 apg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Jr., G, 21.7 ppg, 3.3 apg); Blake Simmons (6-5, So., G/F, 7.1 ppg, 2.3 apg); Adam Wing (6-4, Jr., G/F, 6.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg); Egidijus Mockevicius (6-10, Jr., C, 12.4 ppg, 10.0 rpg).
Three key questions:
1. Which frontcourt will win out?
Mockevicius, UE’s 6-foot-10 center, is a nightly threat for a double-double. But he’s most comfortable protecting the rim on the defensive end, where Ohio will look to get him away from the basket.
Ohio’s 6-foot-8, 260-pound center Antonio Campbell can shoot out to 3-point range (he’s made 4 of 14 3s this season) and 6-9, 200-pound power forward Maurice Ndour can slash to the basket as well as score inside.
Chances are Adam Wing or Mislav Brzoja will have to guard one of these larger players and the Aces will hope Mockevicius’ man doesn’t burn them from the outside. If Ohio tries to challenge the big guy inside, the Aces have to like their chances. Mockevicius finished with six blocks and only one foul against Murray State, and has 19 blocks this season.
2. Will UE get back to protecting the ball?
After ranking among the nation’s leaders in assist-to-turnover ration early in the season, Evansville has struggled in that area over its past two games. Against Belmont on Dec. 9, the Aces committed 17 turnovers compared to 12 assists. And against Murray State on Saturday, UE had 19 miscues and 15 assists.
Adam Wing had five turnovers in each of those games and leads the Aces with 23 on the season. Duane Gibson, normally a sure-handed point guard, also had five turnovers against Murray State.
3. Can Balentine continue his hot streak?
Here are Balentine’s scoring totals since being held to 13 and 12 points in back-to-back games of the Florida Gulf Coast Showcase: 23, 28, 22, 25, 31.
During that stretch, he’s hit 51.2 percent of his field goals and 50 percent from 3-point range. That’s impressive efficiency for a high-volume shooter.
Predictions: Evansville is listed as a 10 1/2-point favorite by VegasInsider. Ken Pomeroy predicts a 74-65 UE win and gives the Aces an 81 percent chance of victory.