Western Illinois Leathernecks (2-1) at Evansville Purple Aces (1-2)
Coaches vs. Cancer Classic
Game Time: 7:35 p.m. Saturday
Location: Ford Center
Broadcast: 91.5 WUEV, Aces TV
Spread: UE -5.5 at Vegas Insider
Last Meeting: UE beat Western Illinois 68-45 last February in a BracketBusters game at the Ford Center.
2012: UE 68, Western Illinois 45
2005: UE 70, Western Illinois 63
2004: UE 72, Western Illinois 55
Nov. 16: Without Ryan, UE wins first game of the season over Yale
Nov. 16: Quotes from UE’s 66-56 win
Nov. 16: Ryan day to day with hip injury
Nov. 16: Western Illinois bounces back with win over Buffalo
Nov. 15: Ryan injured in UE’s loss to Buffalo
Nov. 14: Plenty for Aces to learn playing three games in as many days
—Colt Ryan sat out Friday, marking the first game he’s missed in his college career. Out of the 96 in a row during which he’s suited up for the Aces, Ryan led UE in scoring 51 times.
—D.J. Balentine’s 16 points against Yale were the most by a UE freshman since Jordan Jahr also scored 16 two seasons ago against Indiana State.
—UE had four players (Balentine, Jahr, Lewis Jones and Ryan Sawvell) all finish in double figures Friday. The Aces were 7-2 last season in games where four players reached double digits in the scoring column.
—Egidijus Mockevicius made his first start against Yale and picked up just two fouls in 20 minutes. Mockevicius has committed three fouls in his last 35 minutes on the court.
—Aided by Mockevicius’ three blocks, the Aces finished with six total versus Yale — more than in any game last season. Lewis Jones, Jaylon Moore and Jordan Jahr also registered a block in the game.
—Western Illinois last season played in the College Basketball Invitational and finished 18-15. The Leathernecks lost 52-50 to South Dakota State in the Summit League’s tournament championship game, just missing out on an NCAA tournament bid.
—Western Illinois coach Jim Molinari formerly spent 11 seasons at Bradley, winning a Missouri Valley Conference championship in 1996.
—What is a Leatherneck? Allow Western Illinois’ game notes to explain: “Western Illinois holds the distinction of being the only nonmilitary institution to officially have its nickname derived from a branch of the military service. The school began use of the Marine Corps’ official nickname, “The Fighting Leathernecks,” in 1927 when then-athletic director and head baseball, basketball and football coach Ray “Rock” Hanson was granted permission by the U.S. Navy, based on his status as a Marine hero, to use the Marine’s official seal, bulldog mascot and nickname.”
Sophomore Jordan Jahr on keeping fresh legs: “After this win, it feels like everyone’s got a lot of energy because we’re excited and stuff like that. I’m sure there’s people that have knicks and bruises – stuff like that – and they’ll get treatment. I don’t think there would be any reason why we wouldn’t be as fresh as just a regular game.”
Freshman D.J. Balentine said there’s no fatigue at home: “With a crowd like that, you don’t really feel tired. They’re out there boosting you up, so you really don’t feel anything.”
Outlook: Though UE cruised to an easy win over Western Illinois last season, the Leathernecks’ decisive win over Buffalo (an opponent that beat the Aces two nights ago) sets up an intriguing matchup. Just which UE team shows up Saturday will make the difference — the one that shot almost 50 percent and beat Yale or the one that could hardly get through an offensive set in a loss to Buffalo. Riding in on a win, look for the Aces to move to 2-2.