Game Day: Missouri State-UE

Missouri State Bears (3-10) at Evansville Purple Aces (7-6)
Missouri Valley Conference Game 2/18

Game Time: 7:05 p.m. Wednesday

Location: Ford Center

Broadcast: 91.5 WUEV, ESPN3.com

Live Coverage: Follow on Twitter (@ECP_Lintner)

Game Notes: Click here for UE and here for Missouri State

Spread: UE -15 at Vegas Insider

UE’s Probable Starters: Troy Taylor, Ned Cox, Colt Ryan, Lewis Jones, Egidijus Mockevicius

Missouri State’s Probable Starters: Dorrian Williams, Marcus Marshall, Anthony Downing, Drew Wilson, Christian Kirk

Last Meeting: UE beat Missouri State 72-64 at Arch Madness.

Series History: Missouri State leads the all-time series 30-26, though UE is 17-8 when playing at home. The Aces have won their last four games against the Bears, with three coming last season. It was just the second three-game season sweep of an MVC foe for UE, with the other coming against Wichita State in 1999.

Story Clippings:

Jan. 1: Balentine trying to find his shot again
Jan. 1: After victory, Missouri State looking for another at UE
Dec. 31: Missouri State gets fresh start with win in Valley opener
Dec. 30: Taylor makes good on triple-double promise
Dec. 29: Creighton deals UE worst defeat of season

Notable:

—UE enters Wednesday on a two-game losing streak following road defeats to a pair of ranked opponents, Butler and Creighton. The Aces haven’t lost three straight this season. They at one point dropped four in a row last year from Jan. 4-13 during a string of MVC games against Wichita State, Illinois State, Indiana State and Drake.

—As if his triple-double wasn’t enough, UE senior Troy Taylor is averaging 8.5 rebounds per game in the Aces’ last six contests. He leads them on the season in rebounding and has posted a team-high in boards on 19 occasions over the last two years,  more than anyone else.

—UE is 5-0 this season when it out-rebounds an opponent and 2-6 when it doesn’t.

—The Aces have controlled the opening tip just twice this season, and they won both of those games.

—In his last four games, UE freshman D.J. Balentine has combined to score 22 points. In the four games prior, he scored 65, tallying as many as 26 against Colorado State.

—Both the Aces and Bears take care of the ball. Missouri State ranks 13th in Division I in turnovers per game (10.9) and 26th in turnover margin (+3.8). UE is 27th in turnovers (11.5) and 20th in turnover margin (+4.3).

—Missouri State’s win Sunday over Southern Illinois in its MVC opener snapped a 14-game losing streak against Division I opponents dating back to last season. The Bears’ other wins this season came over Philander Smith and Malone.

—Offense isn’t Missouri State’s specialty. The Bears are 312th or worse national in shooting percentage, 2-point field goals, 3-point shooting and free throw percentage.

—Though Missouri State averages 61 percent from the free throw line, the Bears went 20 of 23 from the charity stripe in their win over Southern Illinois.

—Second-year Missouri State Paul Lusk defeated all but three teams during his first season coaching in the MVC: UE, Wichita State and Illinois State.

Quotable:

UE coach Marty Simmons on facing Missouri State off the Bears’ win: “Just seeing their quotes and things, they’ve obviously got a lot of confidence off that win, I think from our standpoint, (Monday) was about us and just trying to get better. We went really hard, and that’s our main focus. What we’ve talked about – rebounding – is a topic every day. We obviously understand that and the importance of that. If you’re going to be successful, you need to work on it every day.”

Simmons scouts Missouri State: “They push you in transition. They do a good job. (Anthony) Downing’s a returning player. He’s an outstanding player who’s always looking to score and can score in a number of different ways. (Christian) Kirk inside gives them toughness and a guy who can score around the basket but still step out and shoot it. (Marcus) Marshall is an outstanding guard. Young, he’s a freshman, but he’s really athletic – really quick and can create. They’re just a real fundamentally sound, together – they don’t beat themselves. You can see the real purpose they have both offensively and defensively.”

UE senior Colt Ryan on what’s at stake Wednesday: “This is a really big game for us because every conference game is extremely important. Missouri State’s lost a lot of games that could have gone the other way. They’ve got a great coach over there and have guys back who played us well three times last year. We know it’s going to be a hard-fought battle, and we’re going to be ready.”

UE freshman D.J. Balentine said the Aces remain confident after road losses to Butler and Creighton: “We’re not too happy about the last two games, obviously. We know we can play much better, and we’re looking forward to Wednesday’s night’s game.”

Outlook: Seems this season that UE’s either played a top-flight opponent or one at the bottom of the barrel. Expect more of the latter Tuesday at the Ford Center, along with the Aces’ easiest MVC victory of the season. Though Missouri State is coming in on a win, the Bears are 15-point underdogs for a reason and should be out-classed by the Aces.