Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

ESTERO, Fla. — D.J. Balentine has a game-high 14 points to lead the University of Evansville to 39-34 halftime lead against San Francisco in the third-place game at the Gulf Coast Showcase at Germain Arena.

Balentine missed a 3-pointer on Evansville’s first offensive possession, but finished the half 2 of 5 from long range and 5 of 10 overall. He scored 12 points in the first eight minutes, sparking the Aces on a 10-0 run that allowed them to take a 16-8 lead.

USF’s Mark Tollefsen gave his team a one-point advantage with 8:14 remaining on a tip dunk, but UE responded with a 10-2 run and led the rest of the half. Tollefsen, a 6-foot-9 forward, paced the Dons with 12 points.

Jaylon Brown came off the bench to contribute eight points for UE, which has three players with two fouls (Duane Gibson, Adam Wing and Blake Simmons). Brown made 4 of 5 field-goal attempts, including all four inside the 3-point line.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Basic info: Evansville (3-1) vs. San Francisco (3-1), 5 p.m. CST Wednesday at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida, in Gulf Coast Showcase third-place game.

Radio: WUEV 91.5 FM

How they got here: Evansville beat Fresno State 58-52 in Monday’s opening round and lost 64-62 to Green Bay in Tuesday’s semifinals. San Francisco beat Hawaii 88-73 in the opening round and lost 62-47 to Florida Gulf Coast on Tuesday.

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

Evansville: Duane Gibson (6-3, So., G, 5.3 ppg, 3.5 apg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Jr., G, 16.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg); Blake Simmons (6-5, So., G/F, 7.0 ppg, 2.5 apg); Adam Wing (6-4, Jr., G/F, 8.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg); Egidijus Mockevicius (6-10, Jr., C, 12.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg).

San Francisco: Tim Derksen (6-3, Jr., G, 12.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg); Matt Glover (6-5, Sr., G, 6.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg); Kruize Pinkins (6-7, Sr., F, 16.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg); Mark Tollefsen (6-9, Jr., F, 12.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg); Derrell Robertson (6-10, Jr., C, 3.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg).

——

Three key questions:

Can Evansville hold its own on the boards?: Statistically, the Dons are the far superior rebounding team. They average 48 boards per game compared to 34 for their opponents, while UE is outrebounding its opponents by an average of 36-30.

San Francisco has nearly doubled up its opposition on the offensive glass (65-38) so it will be important for the smaller UE team to limit second-chance points. The Aces have held up well against the taller forwards from Fresno State and Green Bay, and they’ll have to do that again against the Dons.

Will Mockevicius be limited at all?: Evansville center Egidijus Mockevicius tweaked his ankle Tuesday against Green Bay and left the game briefly, but looked fine once he returned and is warming up to compete against San Francisco. I don’t expect him to be limited much, but it’s worth keeping an eye on because an injury like that can stiffen and swell up before the next day. His backup, 6-7 forward Jaylon Moore, led the Aces on Tuesday with 13 points off the bench.

— Which team will come out with more energy?: Both teams are playing their third game in three days, and there’s a little less hype for a consolation, third-place game than a championship matchup. Both teams are likely smarting for different reasons, however. Evansville missed a potential game-winning shot in its semifinal against Green Bay and San Francisco got handled by Florida Gulf Coast on Tuesday.

For those reasons, I expect both teams to approach this game as an important one.

——

Predictions: The latest VegasInsider line has Evansville favored by one point. Ken Pomeroy predicts a 68-67 San Francisco victory and gives the Aces a 47 percent chance of winning.

 

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

ESTERO, Fla. — Green Bay point guard Keifer Sykes has game highs of nine points and six rebounds as the Phoenix hold a 26-23 lead over Evansville at halftime of a Gulf Coast Showcase semifinal Tuesday at Germain Arena.

The Aces are shooting just 28 percent from the field and both teams have eight turnovers. Junior center Egidijus Mockevicius leads Evansville with six points and five rebounds. He played 12 minutes before limping off the court with an injury late in the half. Mockevicius left the playing area and later returned to the bench, though he wasn’t put back in the game.

Evansville’s D.J. Balentine was held scoreless for the first 18 minutes, but chipped in five points in the last 1:39. Greg Mays and Turner Botz have five points apiece for Green Bay, which is shooting 9 of 20 from the field.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

“Just Google Keifer Sykes,” University of Evansville assistant coach Jimmy Elgas said when I was looking for someone to give me a scouting report on Green Bay, who plays UE at 5 p.m. CST Tuesday in the semifinals of the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida.

I had already done that, but here’s what you’d find if you followed Elgas’ instructions.

You’d find that Sykes is projected to be a second-round NBA draft pick in 2015 by multiple mock drafts, he was the Horizon League Player of the Year last season after averaging 20.3 points, 4.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds and he recently almost dunked viciously on Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky (then shared a Twitter exchange dripping with sportsmanship).

He also has a ton of ridiculous highlight videos. Take your pick.

With that, here are the game notes for UE vs. Green Bay:

Basic info: Evansville (3-0) vs. Green Bay (2-1) in semifinals of Gulf Coast Showcase at Germain Arena in Estero, Fla.

Radio: WUEV 91.5 FM

 

PROJECTED STARTERS

Evansville: Duane Gibson (6-3, So., G, 6.7 ppg, 4 apg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Jr., G, 18 ppg, 3.7 rpg); Blake Simmons (6-5, So., G/F, 5.3 ppg, 3 apg); Adam Wing (6-4, Jr., G/F, 8.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg); Egidijus Mockevicius (6-10, Jr., C, 14.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg).

Green Bay: Keifer Sykes (6-0, Sr., G, 18 ppg, 4.7 apg); Greg Mays (6-9, Sr., F, 12.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg); Jordan Fouse (6-7, Jr., G/F, 8.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg); Carrington Love (6-1, Jr., G, 5.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg); Kenneth Lowe (6-8, So., F, 3.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg).

— —

Three key questions:

Can UE’s D.J. Balentine break out of his mini-slump?: The junior shooting guard is leading Evansville with 18 points per game, but he’s requiring a lot of shots to do it. Balentine has made 10 of 32 field-goal attempts in his last two games, but the Aces need him to keep firing. Monday against Fresno State, he had several midrange jumpers rim out — the difference between a big scoring game and an average performance.

Will either team get hot offensively in this arena?: No team has put together a great shooting performance in the opening six games of this tournament, and some of that could be attributed to the strange playing environment. Germain Arena is a hockey venue with a cavernous backdrop (and very few fans), which could be messing with players’ depth perception.

UE coach Marty Simmons said that could’ve plagued both UE and Fresno State on Monday, so we’ll see if the teams get more comfortable shooting in the gym as the tournament progresses.

Can Brzoja come up big again for UE?: Mislav Brzoja led UE with 17 points off the bench against Fresno State. He played 29 minutes and was in the game during the important stretches. The Aces will likely need his size (he’s actually 6-foot-6, but is listed at 6-4) and toughness against an experienced, athletic Green Bay team.

— —

Predictions: VegasInsider lists Evansville as a 3 1/2-point underdog. Stat guru Ken Pomeroy predicts a 62-60 Green Bay win and gives the Phoenix a 63 percent chance of victory.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

ESTERO, Fla. — Mislav Brzoja understood the undersized University of Evansville men’s basketball team needed to use the Fresno State Bulldogs’ athleticism and aggressiveness against them.

Brzoja used an array of shot fakes and hesitations to goad the Bulldogs into fouls, then sank 12 of 13 free throws and scored a team-high 17 points as the Aces posted a 58-52 victory in the opening round of the Gulf Coast Showcase Monday at Germain Arena.

The Aces (3-0) advance to play Green Bay (2-1) at 5 p.m. CST in Tuesday’s semifinals.

It took contributions from a number of UE players to overcome the team’s 38-percent shooting mark. D.J. Balentine scored 13 points, Egidijus Mockevicius posted 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Adam Wing knocked down a crucial 3-pointer late in the game.

Sophomore point guard Duane Gibson made amends for his own turnover by stealing an inbounds pass and driving the length of the floor for a layup to put UE ahead 55-49 with 50 seconds left. The Aces held on from there.

Karachi Edo led Fresno State (1-3) with 17 points and Paul Watson added 13. The Bulldogs play East Carolina on Tuesday in a consolation game.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

ESTERO, Fla — University of Evansville sophomore Blake Simmons knocked down a long two-pointer before the halftime buzzer to give the Aces a 29-25 lead over Fresno State in the opening round of the Gulf Coast Showcase on Monday at Germain Arena.

The successful long ball was a rare occurrence for the Aces (2-0) in the first half, however. Aside from consecutive 3-pointers from Mislav Brzoja and D.J. Balentine, UE was 0-for-10 from beyond the arc. Brzoja leads UE with 10 points off the bench.

Sophomore forward Paul Watson has a team-high 10 points for Fresno State (1-2), which shot 9 of 24 (38 percent) from the field.

Evansville has struggled to find 6-foot-10 center Egidijus Mockevicius inside. The big man has three points on only two field-goal attempts, but leads all players with seven rebounds.

Fresno State’s Karachi Edo has seven points, three rebounds, two blocks, two steals and one highlight-worthy sequence. The 6-6 forward soared in for a tip dunk and emphatically blocked an unsuspecting Mockevicius on the Bulldogs’ next defensive possession.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Recruiting.

Indianapolis Star prep sports/recruiting reporter Kyle Neddenriep released his top 20 high school boys’ basketball players to watch in Central Indiana last night, and University of Evansville signee Harris Brown was listed as a first-team preseason selection.

(I wrote about Brown, a 5-foot-11 guard from Indianapolis Howe, both when we committed to the Aces and when he signed a National Letter of Intent.)

Brown’s inclusion among Neddenriep’s top five players in the always-loaded Indianapolis area is nice recognition for the talented scoring guard; even the honorable mention players on this list are solid Division I prospects, and some hold Big Ten offers.

 

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Basic info: Evansville (2-0) vs. Fresno State (1-2), first round of Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida; Monday at 1:30 p.m. CST.

Radio: WUEV 91.5 FM

Preview story: Gulf Coast Showcase a business trip for Aces

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

Evansville —Duane Gibson (6-3, So., G, 7 ppg, 4.5 apg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Jr., G, 20.5 ppg, 4.0 apg); Blake Simmons (6-5, So., G/F, 7 ppg, 3.5 apg); Adam Wing (6-4, Jr., G/F, 9.5 ppg, 6 rpg); Egidijus Mockevicius (6-10, Jr., C, 16.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg).

Fresno State — Julien Lewis (6-4, Jr., G, 16 ppg, 3.7 rpg); Marvelle Harris (6-4, Jr., G, 14.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg); Paul Watson (6-7, So., F, 13 ppg, 3.7 rpg); Karachi Edo (6-6, So., F, 10.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg); Emmanuel Owootoah (5-11, So., G, 7 ppg, 2 rpg).

——

Three key questions:

— Is Fresno State better than their record?: In terms of talent, yes. The Bulldogs have lost their only two games to Division I opponents (Pepperdine and Northern Arizona) by an average of 18 points, but Fresno State brings back four of five starters from the College Basketball Invitational runner-up team and added an impact transfer in Julien Lewis.

Lewis — the Bulldogs’ leading scorer this season at 16 points per game — averaged 11 points for the Texas Longhorns two years ago. Fresno State also features a returning all-Mountain West Conference honorable-mention selection (Marvelle Harris) and the reigning MWC Freshman of the Year (Paul Watson). It’s clear Fresno State has some gifted players, but the team hasn’t performed well so far this season.

— Will the Bulldogs be able to draw Mockevicius away from the basket?: Fresno State’s tallest starter is 6-foot-7 Paul Watson, and he’s listed as a guard/forward on the Bulldogs’ roster. While UE’s 6-10 center Egidijus Mockevicius moves very well for his size, the Aces would prefer to have him roam the paint and challenge drives to the basket. With their small lineup, the Bulldogs might try to space the floor and bring Mockevicius away from the hoop, cutting into his effectiveness as a shot blocker.

— Will UE’s stats crash back to Earth?: Thanks partially to playing Division III Earlham in their first regular-season game, the Aces are leading Division I in assists average (25.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.83), and they’re second in field-goal percentage (60.5). Chances are these stats will drop significantly against better competition in Florida this week, but we’ll see if these areas are still strengths for UE.

Stat guru Ken Pomeroy’s prediction: Pomeroy predicts Evansville winning 64-62 and gives the Aces a 61 percent chance of victory.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Basic info: Evansville (1-0) at Miami (Ohio) (1-0), Wednesday at 6 p.m. CST in Oxford, Ohio.

Radio: WUEV 91.5 FM

Preview story: Brzoja making most of opportunity with UE

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

Evansville — Egidijus Mockevicius (6-10, Jr., C, 16 ppg, 5 rpg); Duane Gibson (6-3, So., G, 12 ppg, 3 rpg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Jr., G, 22 ppg, 6 rpg); Adam Wing (6-4, Jr., G/F, 10 ppg, 8 rpg); Blake Simmons (6-5, So., G/F, 2 ppg, 5 apg).

Miami — L.J. Livingston Jr. (6-10, Jr., C, 3 ppg, 5 rpg); Geovonie McKnight (6-3, Jr., G, 10 ppg, 2 apg); Will Sullivan (6-3, Sr., G, 21 ppg, 3 rpg); Willie Moore (6-3, Jr., G, 13 ppg, 6 rpg); Eric Washington (5-10, Jr. G, 17 ppg, 8 apg).

— —

Three key questions from UE’s perspective:

– What will the Aces get out of Mockevicius?: The big man missed Monday’s practice with an illness, but should be good go to tonight after participating in Tuesday’s workout. Still, it’s worth noting that missing time due to the illness could cut into Mockevicius’ endurance just a bit, particularly if he’s still slightly sick.

What will we learn about the Aces in their first Division I game?: We may as well call this the Aces’ unofficial season opener (Saturday’s 116-45 drubbing of Division III Earlham hardly counts as a contest). Now that the Aces will match up with an opponent that can approach their size and skill, we’ll probably be able to glean more from tonight’s game than the two exhibitions and the Earlham blowout combined.

Chances are an experienced team like UE — which returns 96 percent of its scoring from last season — won’t have much of a learning curve in its first competitive game of the season. But the Aces were able to roll so easily over their previous three opponents that it will be interesting to see how they respond in what is expected to be a competitive game.

Will Evansville’s rotation shrink?: Everyone got to play as UE cruised past its previous opponents. Against Miami, the Aces aren’t guaranteed another blowout, so head coach Marty Simmons might be forced to give fewer players significant minutes.

Of Evansville’s 11 active players, none could be classified as a true benchwarmer; all can contribute on some level. Beginning tonight and continuing through next week’s Gulf Coast Showcase, where the Aces play three games in three days, UE’s rotation will start to come into focus. We’ll find out which guys Simmons trusts when games are competitive from start to finish.

— —

Two Miami players to watch: Will Sullivan, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, paced the Redhawks with 21 points in their season-opening 76-63 win over Southern Utah. He knocked down 6 of 8 3-pointers.

Eric Washington, a 5-10 junior point guard, also had an outstanding opener. He finished with 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Washington sat out last season after transferring from Presbyterian, where he averaged 6.5 assists as a sophomore — the 15th-best mark in Division I that season.

Posted by & filed under Women's Basketball.

After the men’s and women’s basketball games I cover this season (road games I can’t watch don’t count), I’ll post some thoughts the following day on this blog.

Here are some observations from Evansville’s 72-68 win Sunday over Austin Peay in the season opener:

The Aces’ depth is a problem … even though coach Oties Epps has repeatedly said that it isn’t. UE only has eight healthy, eligible players right now and played just seven of them more than three minutes on Sunday. The Aces looked fatigued at times and barely held on after taking a 13-point lead in the first half.

Until Evansville can get freshman forward Asia Petitte (hip and ankle injuries) and/or senior guard Kat Taylor (torn Achilles tendon) back to add depth, every win will be a survival, mainly because …

Foul trouble is a huge issue with such a short bench. Starters Sara Dickey and Sasha Robinson were sidelined for a stretch of the second half with four fouls, which led to a dangerous stretch for the Aces. UE’s other players — particularly Mallory Ladd and Khristian Hart — stepped up with some key plays to keep Evansville slightly ahead until Robinson and Dickey returned with four minutes remaining.

The Aces will need to learn to play aggressively without fouling. One of Dickey’s fouls, in particular, stood out as being avoidable. She picked up her third foul on the first possession of the second half by diving into an Austin Peay player who clearly had the shorter route to the ball. The Aces, especially their star players, can’t afford those fouls with their lack of depth.

Freshmen Taloni Reese and Peyton Langston were more assertive. Not sure if I’ve said this or not yet, but the Aces aren’t very deep. With that in mind, they need each player to be a threat. After playing passively at times in UE’s exhibition against University of Southern Indiana, Reese and Langston looked to attack more offensively.

Reese finished with 11 points, while Langston had seven despite missing four free throws and a couple of layups.

Ladd and Robinson were beasts on the boards. Robinson (career-high 16 rebounds) and Ladd (14) combined for 30 of the Aces’ 47 rebounds. The Aces will be undersized against a lot of teams, so it was encouraging to see their two biggest players have huge rebounding nights.

— Dickey can score in a variety of ways. This may not be news to UE fans, but in my first regular-season game covering the team, it’s a fresh observation for me. She looked particularly effective driving to her right and had good touch with runners and floaters. Dickey also has a nice jump shot and hit 3 of 4 free throws en route to a team-high 20 points.

Posted by & filed under Women's Basketball.

University of Evansville senior Khristian Hart came up with a crucial strip against Austin Peay and knocked down a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession to help UE to a 72-68 victory Sunday at the Ford Center.

Hart finished with 13 points off the bench for the Aces (1-0), who were led by Sara Dickey’s 20 points.

Austin Peay freshman Madison Rich had a game-high 21 points after being held scoreless in the Governors’ opener. UE’s Sasha Robinson posted a career-high 16 rebounds to go along with nine points, and senior forward Mallory Ladd had 12 points and 14 boards.

 

Posted by & filed under Women's Basketball.

The University of Evansville women’s basketball team opened the game on a 6-0 run and led by as many as 13 points, but Austin Peay closed the half with a 10-2 spurt.

UE sophomore Sara Dickey leads all scorers with 11 points, while sophomore Sasha Robinson has 11 rebounds. The Aces are winning the rebounding battle 28-24.

The Governors (0-1) started the game just 2-for-19 from the field, but picked up the scoring later in the half. Tearra Banks leads Austin Peay with nine points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Tiasha Gray — who posted 37 points in the Governors’ season opener — has five points on 2-of-8 shooting.