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D.J. Balentine scored 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting as the University of Evansville men’s basketball team raced out to a 45-30 lead against Coppin State on Sunday at the Ford Center.

Balentine had 10 points less than five minutes into the contest. He did most of his damage in close early, and later stepped out and nailed two straight 3-pointers. The 6-foot-2 junior has now scored 20-plus points in eight straight games, the longest such streak since current UE head coach Marty Simmons scored 20 or more nine consecutive times in 1988.

The Aces went on runs of 14-4 and 8-2 late in the half to extend their lead.

UE center Egidijus Mockevicius tallied seven points, six rebounds and two blocks, and senior forward Jaylon Moore scored all six of his points during the 14-4 run that helped the Aces stretch their lead to 15.

Evansville shot 56 percent from the field compared to Coppin State’s 32 percent. Sterling Smith led the Eagles’ balanced scoring effort with six points.

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Basic info: Coppin State (1-11) at Evansville (9-2), 1:05 p.m. CST Sunday at the Ford Center

Preview story: Playmaking Brzoja to see expanded role in place of injured Wing

Radio: WUEV 91.5 FM

 

PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS

Coppin State: Arnold Fripp (6-7, Sr., F, 12.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg); Lawrence Fejokwu (6-9, Jr., C, 1.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg); Taariq Cephas (5-10, Sr., G, 10.4 ppg, 3.6 apg); Christian Kessee (6-2, So., G, 7.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg); Sterling Smith (6-4, Jr., G, 9.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg).

Evansville: Jaylon Brown (6-0, So., G, 6.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Jr., G, 21.6 ppg, 3.9 apg); Mislav Brzoja (6-6, So., G/F, 8.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg); Blake Simmons (6-5, So., G/F, 8.1 ppg, 2.3 apg); Egidijus Mockevicius (6-10, Jr., C, 13.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg).

——

Three key questions:

1. How will Adam Wing’s absence affect the Aces’ rotation?

Wing, who typically starts as an undersized power forward for the Aces, strained a muscle in his quadriceps in the Aces’ win over Alabama State last Sunday. I expect Mislav Brzoja to fill in for him in the starting lineup and see increased minutes.

However, Brzoja — who already averages 21.9 minutes per game — can’t possibly eat up all of Wing’s 29 minutes, so the absence of a regular player will be felt farther down the rotation. Taylor Stafford and Christian Benzon could see a few more minutes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if UE’s two point guards — Jaylon Brown and Duane Gibson — share some floor time rather than taking turns.

The Aces have preferred to surround center Egidijus Mockevicius with four smaller players this season, so I expect the extra minutes will go to guards rather than power-forward types like Jaylon Moore and David Howard.

2. Can Balentine extend his streak?

He has scored 20 or more points in seven straight games and now ranks ninth in the country at 21.6 points per game. That is the longest such streak since current head coach Marty Simmons scored at least 20 in nine straight games in 1988.

3. Is Mockevicius set for another monster game?

Signs point to yes. The Eagles give up 89 points per game, meaning they’re susceptible to giving up easy baskets, which the 6-foot-10 Mockevicius thrives upon.

Mockevicius, who scored a career-high 25 points in the Aces’ last game, is shooting 68.7 percent from the field and Coppin State has been torched by some opposing big men this season. Most notably, Connecticut’s Amida Brimah — who is primarily respected for his shot-blocking and defense — made all 13 of his field-goal attempts and scored 40 points in a 106-85 win.

——

Predictions: Vegas didn’t set a line for this game. Ken Pomeroy predicts an 86-64 Evansville win and gives the Aces a 97 percent chance of victory. The Aces are ranked 90th in Pomeroy’s ratings, while Coppin State is 336th of 351 Division I teams.

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Leftover notes and quotes from Evansville’s 81-63 win over Alabama State on Sunday at the Ford Center (you can read my game story here):

Egidijus Mockevicius scored a career-high 25 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, helping him earn the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week award on Monday. Mockevicius finished 9-for-13 from the field against the Hornets.

“He made some good plays in there,” UE coach Marty Simmons said. “He made seven free throws, got to the line eight times, which I think is an outstanding stat for him. I thought he played more aggressive, overall, in the second half.”

Said D.J. Balentine, who had 20 points and a game-high seven assists:  “When he gets that ball in close, he’s gonna normally score. He knows how to find spots, he knows how to screen and slip.”

Evansville’s switch to a 2-3 zone completely threw off Alabama State after the Hornets shot 60 percent and scored 49 points in the first half. The zone — along with better defense from Jaylon Brown and Duane Gibson out front — kept ASU’s quick guards from getting into the paint and getting easy shots for themselves or teammates.

“I think it just slowed down their penetration because we packed in all our guys to prevent the drive and were just making them shoot perimeter shots,” Gibson said of the zone.

“They kind of knocked us on our heels so we felt like we should change defenses to change tempo for a couple possessions, and just kind of see how they responded to it,” Simmons said. “Our guys did a good job. I thought they really did a good job communicating.”

Other tidbits: The Aces shot 50 percent from the field (29 of 58) and are shooting 52.7 percent for the season. … UE outscored the Hornets 34-14 in the second half, and only allowed six points in the final 15:35. … The Aces have outscored every opponent this season in the second half.

——

Finally, here are some more Marty Simmons post-game quotes:

On the flow of the game, which saw UE take an early 12-point lead, lose the lead before halftime and then pull away in the second half: “At the start of the game, we were pretty good. I thought we played with good intensity. We were out in passing lanes, we did a much better job of containing the penetration. But as the half went on, we had slippage. We certainly encouraged (the players) at halftime to come out with renewed intensity.”

On the Aces, particularly Balentine, finding Mockevicius inside for easy baskets: “I thought D.J. really cut extremely hard to start the game. They showed a lot of help to him – hedging from Egidijus’ man – and D.J. made some great passes and we got some easy buckets right out of the gate.”

On the Aces’ upside if they can put 40 good minutes together:  “Playing the last 15 minutes the way we did, that’s what we’re trying to get our guys to look at themselves and understand the potential that we have as a team. If we’ll just stay focused and execute and do things the way we practice, we can be a pretty good basketball team.”

On taking some time off for the holidays: “We’re going to let them go home for a few days. We’d like to build on that second half, but they’re going to get some time to spend some quality time with their family, which I think is awesome. A lot of programs are playing in tournaments and they don’t get the opportunity to spend three days with their family.”

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Alabama State went on an extended run to turn a 12-point deficit into a 49-47 halftime lead against the University of Evansville on Sunday at the Ford Center.

Jaylon Brown buried a 3-pointer with 7:55 remaining to give the Aces a 30-18 lead, but the Hornets outscored UE 31-17 the rest of the half. Luther Page made 3 of 4 field goals and 4 of 5 free throws to score a team-high 10 points for ASU. Four of his teammates had six or more points.

Evansville junior D.J. Balentine racked up 14 points and six assists, while Egidijus Mockevicius scored 11 points.

Mockevicius was the beneficiary of several nice passes inside from Balentine, Mislav Brzoja and Adam Wing. The Aces assisted on 14 of their 19 field goals and shot 54.3 percent from the field.

Alabama State finished 18 of 30 from the floor (60 percent) and made eight free throws compared to five for UE.

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Basic info: Alabama State (3-4) at Evansville (8-2), 1:05 p.m. CST Sunday at the Ford Center

Preview story: UE’s Simmons has knack for thwarting shot blockers

Radio: WUEV 91.5 FM

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

Alabama State: Wendell Lewis (6-10, Sr., C, 8.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg); DeMarcus Robinson (5-10, Sr., G, 12.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg); Brandon Graham (6-7, Sr., F, 6.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg); Jamel Waters (5-9, Jr., G, 12.9 ppg, 5.7 apg); Maurice Strong (6-6, Sr., F, 10.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg).

Evansville: Jaylon Brown (6-0, So., G, 6.1 ppg, 2.7 apg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Jr., G, 21.8 ppg, 3.6 apg); Blake Simmons (6-5, So., G/F, 7.8 ppg, 2.4 apg); Adam Wing (6-4, Jr., F, 7.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg); Egidijus Mockevicius (6-10, Jr., C, 12.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg).

——

Noting Alabama State: The Hornets were selected as the preseason favorites in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and placed three players on the five-member all-SWAC preseason team. … ASU has played a pair of tough, major-conference opponents this season in Utah and Arkansas. The team’s other losses came to North Dakota and Western Illinois. … The Hornets return five starters from 19-13 team that qualified for the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, losing to Sam Houston State in the first round. … ASU has five players who average 9.9 points or more.

Noting Evansville: The Aces have played three straight games that have come down to the final possessions in regulation, beating Belmont 65-62, losing to Murray State 81-79 and pulling away from Ohio 81-69 in overtime. … Mockevicius has double-digit rebounds in five of his last six games, boosting his season average to 10.0 per game. Mockevicius has six double-doubles this season, six away from UE’s single-season Division I record. … Balentine has scored at least 22 points in his last six games, including a season-high 31 against Murray State. … The Aces rank third in Division I in field-goal percentage (52.9 percent). According to Ken Pomeroy, the Aces rank 16th in effective field-goal percentage (56.1), which factors in the value of a 3-pointer.

——

Predictions: Pomeroy predicts an 81-67 Evansville win and gives the Aces a 90 percent chance of victory. Vegas didn’t provide a betting line for the contest.

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A few leftover observations and notes from Evansville’s 81-69 overtime victory Thursday against Ohio (read my game story here.)

1. Evansville’s 2-3 zone for several possessions in the second half was a nice change-up.

The Aces switched from a man-to-man to zone midway through the second half, and the different look was largely effective. After Ohio’s Javarez Willis hit a 3-pointer on one of the early zone possessions, the Aces stuck with it and went on an 11-0 run.

The switch in defenses made sense against a team that entered the game shooting 28.5 percent from 3-point range. When the Bobcats finally appeared to solve the zone, the Aces went back to man-to-man for the final stretch of regulation.

UE coach Marty Simmons credited his assistant coaches for the decision to switch to the 2-3, and added that his players were able to carry over the intensity that they had in the zone back to man-to-man.

2. The free-throw disparity looks more dramatic than it actually seemed.

Evansville shot 23 of 28 from the foul line compared to 2 of 3 for Ohio. That’s a huge difference in the game, but in the flow of the contest, it didn’t seem like all the calls were going one way.

There weren’t any controversial block-charge calls or blatant no-calls; Ohio picked up several fouls trying to crash the boards and UE reached the bonus midway through the second half while Ohio didn’t reach the bonus until overtime.

That — and the two Ohio technical foul calls that gave Evansville four early free throws — is what primarily contributed to the disparity. The Aces may have had a couple more of those off-the-ball or rebounding contact calls go their way, but it seemed like a fairly well-officiated game.

A big moment in the game was when Ohio’s Antonio Campbell fouled out with 1:50 left in regulation. The 6-foot-8, 260-pounder was a tough matchup for UE with his shooting range. He went 4-for-7 from the field and 2-for-3 from 3-point range in scoring 10 points.

3. UE changed its starting lineup for the first time this season.

Sophomore point guard Jaylon Brown replaced classmate Duane Gibson in the Aces’ starting lineup.

“Boo had been out a couple days with some back spasms, missed a couple days of practice,” Marty Simmons said Friday. “More than anything, we just tried to change things up a little bit.”

Brown and Gibson have split time evenly all season and the starting designation likely won’t change that. However, Brown has slightly outperformed Gibson in nearly every statistical category, so maybe UE’s coaching staff took note of that and will continue to start Brown.

Simmons rarely shares much insight on potential lineup changes, so it will be something to keep an eye on in the Aces’ next few games.

4. Adam Wing did a solid job defending Ohio’s Maurice Ndour.

The 6-foot-4 Wing was matched up most of the game with Ndour, a 6-9 player who could score inside and out. Simmons said Ndour was the Bobcats’ most difficult matchup, and he affirmed that by sinking a pair of long jump shots in the first 2:31 of the game.

Ndour finished with team highs of 14 points and 12 rebounds, but shot a modest 6 of 14 from the field. Wing finished with 11 points and six rebounds, hitting 6 of 6 free throws in a team-high 42 minutes, most of them spent battling a much bigger, more physically gifted player.

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Stevie Taylor’s putback before the buzzer gave the Ohio men’s basketball team a 38-36 lead over Evansville after a back-and-forth first half Thursday at the Ford Center.

The half featured eight ties and 10 lead changes, and neither team led by more than five points.

Evansville sophomore Blake Simmons went 2-for-3 from 3-point range and led all scorers with 10 points. D.J. Balentine added nine for the Aces and center Egidijus Mockevicius chipped in seven points, five rebounds and two blocks.

Treg Setty led a balanced Bobcat effort with eight points. Five Ohio players recorded at least five points.

The Bobcats shot 16 of 30 from the field compared to 11 of 24 for UE, but the Aces made 10 free throws while Ohio made one.

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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

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

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.

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Here are some leftover notes, quotes and observations that didn’t make it into my game story of Murray State’s 81-79 victory Saturday over Evansville at the Ford Center.

1. Murray State’s Cameron Payne had everything going.

This is an obvious statement about a player who finished with a game-high 32 points, but the variety of ways in which he scored made it clear why the Aces had such a hard time defending Payne. The 6-foot-2 point guard hit 4 of 7 3-pointers, had a quick pull-up shot and good touch on his floaters.

And because he was making all kinds of shots, his hesitation moves were particularly effective because the Aces had to respect his ability to pull up and unleash a jump shot at any time. Add to that the officials’ trend of calling touch fouls on the perimeter on both ends, and it was basically impossible for UE’s point guards to keep Payne from drawing a foul or getting a decent look at the basket.

2. UE coach Marty Simmons challenged D.J. Balentine in the first half, and the star shooting guard responded.

Balentine finished with 31 points, but he had only two in the first 16:29. During that early stretch, Simmons asked Balentine during a stoppage of play, “D.J., are you playing your (butt) off?”

It’s safe to say he couldn’t ask that question at the end of the contest. Balentine scored 10 points in the last 3:31 of the opening half, including a 3 with two seconds left that pulled UE within 42-38.

For the game, Balentine his 8 of 20 field goals and 13 of 15 free throws, often bullying his way inside to draw fouls.

“I thought he was a lot more aggressive (in the second half) in attacking the rim,” Simmons said. “I think he was a little frustrated in the first half. They’re a physical, tough team, and we knew that. We’ve talked about that since the Belmont game finished.”

3. The Aces’ devastating turnover with 2.3 seconds left was poorly executed, not necessarily poorly conceived.

Before I weigh in here, let me acknowledge this: Adam Wing air-mailing that full-court pass out of bounds with 2.3 seconds left was absolutely the worst possible outcome in that situation for the Aces. If the pass had been low enough for any player to touch the ball, MSU would have had to go the length of the court for the game-winner, so overtime would’ve been likely.

My point is this: hindsight is 20-20. Can you imagine the groans that would’ve permeated the Ford Center had UE just inbounded the ball safely, never reached half court and not gotten a shot up with 2.3 seconds left? For the Aces, something between those two extremes may have been ideal: hit someone at the near 3-point line moving toward the opposite basket, get two dribbles down and at least get a decent attempt at a long 3 to win the game.

But the Aces decided to trust Wing to deliver the long pass, and the former high school quarterback who received Division I scholarship offers for that sport is the best guy to trust in that situation. And he was targeting Jaylon Moore, an explosive leaper at 6-foot-7. The pass just happened to be too high.

4. MSU’s 3-pointers destroyed the Aces.

Murray State finished 11 of 19 from 3-point range, a 58-percent clip. Some were tough makes, but several were fairly open.

Said UE sophomore Blake Simmons: “We got hit by a couple screens; they got us pretty good on some. We gave up too many open 3s, and then Payne – he’s a tough player. He hit a couple of tough ones on our guards. I thought our guards did a good job on him for the most part. We just gotta do a better job of eliminating the easy 3s and always having a hand in the face.”

5. Egidijus Mockevicius posted this impressive statistical combination: six blocks, one foul.

It was incredible how many shots Evansville’s 6-10 center challenged or blocked without fouling. If he can replicate that defensive performance the rest of the season, the Aces will be thrilled.

 

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Cameron Payne poured in 20 points on 7 of 10 shooting as the Murray State men’s basketball team led Evansville 42-38 at halftime Saturday at the Ford Center.

Payne, a 6-foot-2 guard, scored 10 straight MSU points late in the first half. During that stretch, he knocked down both of his 3-pointers, banked in a runner and drilled a contested pull-up jump shot.

D.J. Balentine led the Aces with 12 points and Mislav Brzoja added eight. Egidijus Mockevicius collected six points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two assists.

The half featured seven ties and three lead changes. Murray State stretched its lead to as large as eight in the final minute but UE closed the half with four consecutive points from Balentine, including a 3-pointer with two seconds left.

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Basic info: Murray State (5-4) at Evansville (7-1), 1:05 p.m. CST Saturday at the Ford Center

Preview story: Benzon joins the action for surging Aces

Radio: WUEV 91.5 FM

PROBABLE STARTERS

Murray State: Cameron Payne (6-2, So., G, 17.8 ppg, 4.9 apg); T.J. Sapp (6-3, Sr., G, 9.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg); Jarvis Williams (6-8, Sr., F, 15.7 ppg; 8.0 rpg); Jeffery Moss (6-4, Jr., F, 8.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg); Jonathan Fairell (6-7, Sr., F, 4.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg).

Evansville: Duane Gibson (6-3, So., G, 4.9 ppg, 2.6 apg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Jr., G, 20.5 ppg, 3.4 apg); Adam Wing (6-4, Jr., G/F, 6.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg); Blake Simmons (6-5, Jr., G/F, 6.6 ppg, 2.5 apg); Egidijus Mockevicius (6-10, Jr., C, 12.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg).

— —

Some notes and storylines:

— Most of the key players return from last season’s meeting between the two teams, a 65-63 Murray State win . The scorers of all 63 UE points from that game return this season, while the Racers got major contributions from current starters Jeffery Moss (20 points), Cameron Payne (14 points, five assists) and Jarvis Williams (six points, 16 rebounds).

The Aces were led by D.J. Balentine’s 25 points.

— Murray State has won the last five meetings between the programs and leads the all-time series 24-10. However, Evansville has the home-court advantage, is off to a 7-1 start for only the fourth time in the last 50 seasons and is considered a solid favorite in this matchup (see predictions below).

— Balentine has boosted his scoring average to 20.5 points per game, the second most in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Kokomo, Indiana, native has scored 22 or more in each of his last four games while shooting 54.7 percent from the field during that span. Balentine is the reigning MVC player of the week.

— The Aces rank third in NCAA Division I in field-goal percentage (53.8). Egidijus Mockevicius ranks third individually among players with a minimum of five made field goals per game at 72.7 percent.

— —

Predictions: VegasInsider lists Evansville as a 7 1/2-point favorite. Ken Pomeroy predicts a 74-67 Aces win and gives UE a 76 percent chance of victory.

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Some leftover observations, notes and quotes from Evansville’s 65-62 win Tuesday night at Belmont:

UE struggled to keep up with the ball movement of Belmont in the first half, and the Bruins knocked down 7 of 14 3-pointers. For a while, the Bruins were putting on a clinic with repeated ball fakes, drives and kick-outs leading to open shots. After watching that display, it’s easy to see how Belmont has ranked near the top of NCAA Division I in 3-pointers made each season.

The Aces did a better job of limiting those plays in the second half, however, and Belmont became more impatient offensively.

“We played awful,” Bruins coach Rick Byrd said. “We made bad decisions, we were selfish, we didn’t take care of the basketball. We missed a dunk a crucial moment. We didn’t play like Belmont plays.”

— —

Byrd mostly expressed disappointment in his own team, but he was complimentary of Evansville junior D.J. Balentine, who carried the Aces with a game-high 25 points.

“We knew he was a good player; I watched hours of film on him,” Byrd said. “They do great things to get him shots, and he played awfully well tonight.”

— —

From what I’m told (I wasn’t living in Evansville yet or following the team) this is the type of game previous UE teams lost. The Aces players confirmed this by talking about their past road struggles after the game.

Down eight at halftime on the road against a solid team — albeit without its leading scorer — the Aces regrouped and went on a 19-7 run out of the intermission to take the lead for good. That stretch was the obvious turning point in the game.

“We played a little bit harder and they probably missed some (shots),” UE coach Marty Simmons said. “They’re as hard to defend as any team in the country. They run good stuff, they run it very sharp and they’ve got five guys out there who can shoot 3s.”

— —

Belmont’s Reece Chamberlain was all over the place. His stat line was horrific in terms of shooting: 1-for-11 for two points. But the 6-foot-1 guard had game highs of 14 rebounds and eight assists, and he also recorded a block. He entered the contest averaging 8.6 points per game, so if he would have had his average shooting night he could have flirted with a triple-double.

— —

Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicius, as usual, were two of the most dominant players on the court and Jaylon Brown and Adam Wing knocked down key second-half 3-pointers.

But I also want to highlight the short but important stint played by seldom-used sophomore Christian Benzon. His five minutes came during the stretch when the Aces regained control early in the second half. In that span, he made a pair of free throws after an aggressive drive and poked a ball away on defense, leading to a Belmont turnover.

Benzon missed both of his field-goal attempts, but he was yelling and screaming after each good play he made, and his energy seemed to ignite his teammates.It was a nice boost of the bench for the Aces, who were dealing with Brown’s foul trouble and an injury to starting point guard Duane Gibson.

Gibson took a hard fall in the first half, which caused some stiffness in his back, and didn’t return.