The Morning After: Xavier

Balentine had a better second half, but his final shot to tie the game didn't fall.

Balentine had a better second half, but his final shot to tie the game didn’t fall.

Stories from last night’s 63-60 loss at Xavier:

–Courier & Press: http://bit.ly/18Dlo3m
–Cincinnati Enquirer: http://cin.ci/1bxS5zw

Some observations:

–That was the best first half of road basketball Evansville has played all season. The Aces shot 50 percent from the floor, forced eight turnovers, and outrebounded the Musketeers, 17-10, all en route to a 32-25 halftime lead. Another reason it was great team basketball: even without D.J. Balentine, UE’s offense was still clicking. Balentine had just two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half, but plenty of other players stepped up in his absence. Egidijus Mockevicius had a great first half with nine points and played aggressively with much success, and Blake Simmons played well with seven points and four rebounds.

–What was most impressive about the first half, though, was probably the defense, which UE has struggled ith all year. Xavier was held to just 33 percent from the floor and 12.5 percent from beyond the arc, and the Aces’ trap gave the Musketeers trouble when they tried to pass into the paint. Mockevicius and Jaylon Moore did a good job preventing Matt Stainbrook from getting easy layups, and the team limited Xavier’s transition game, just like head coach Marty Simmons said would be an emphasis in practice. That probably was the best defensive effort all season, as well.

–As good as the Aces’ free throw shooting has been all season, UE struggled down the stretch, going 2-for-8 in the second half. It’s not the only reason the Aces lost the game, but it certainly contributed to it. Especially in close contests, the better free throw-shooting team is typically going to win games.

–Same goes for fouling. In the past three games, Mockevicius was able to play the majority of the first half, as he didn’t pick up early fouls, as was the case Tuesday night. But both he and Duane Gibson picked up early third and fourth fouls, forcing Simmons to sit them for a bit of the second half. Not that Jaylon Brown, Christian Benzon, or Moore were poor as replacements, but it’s noticeable when 40 percent of the starting lineup isn’t on the floor.

–You could tell Balentine wants to be the go-to guy in late-game situations if he hasn’t already proved that. The sophomore went 5-for-10 in the second half and hit two of his four 3-pointers, and he was the one with the ball in his hands as the shot clock wound down and when UE needed a basket to keep with Xavier in the final minutes. That doesn’t come without both good and bad moments — Balentine missed two free throws with a minute left, and missed a layup and the final shot to tie it. His moment will come, it just wasn’t last night.

UE News and Notes for Dec. 10, 2013

–The men’s basketball team heads out of town for its final road trip of the non-conference schedule as they face Xavier tonight. It’s the first time the teams play since 1994, when they were a part of the old MCC.

–More men’s soccer awards keep rolling in, as sophomores Faik Hajderovic and Mark Anthony Gonzalez were named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Continental Tire All-Midwest Region teams Tuesday. Hajderovic, who led the nation with 14 assists this season, was named to the first team while Gonzalez was named to the second team after leading the Aces with nine goals.

–Yesterday, UE men’s sophomore guard D.J. Balentine was named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week while Sara Dickey was MVC Newcomer of the Week on the women’s side. Balentine averaged 23.5 points per game in last week’s outings while Dickey scored a career-high 28 points against Troy on Sunday.

Untitled–Interesting fact about the UE men’s basketball team, per the MVC weekly release: The Aces have averaged more than 30 points per game less in losses than in wins and has shot nearly 20 percent worse in those games. Coincidentally, all of those losses have been on the road.

For Zausch, an ‘injustice’ righted 50 years in the making

At the Victory Theatre after this year’s University of Evansville men’s basketball team beat Miami (Ohio) Saturday afternoon, the 1963-64 squad relished some of their best moments.

From left: Ed Zausch, Jerry Sloan, Russ Grieger, Dave Green, Paul Bullard, Buster Briley, Wayne Boultinghouse.

From left: Ed Zausch, Jerry Sloan, Russ Grieger, Dave Green, Paul Bullard, Buster Briley, Wayne Boultinghouse.

The team huddles in center court during the ceremony at halftime of Saturday's game.

The team huddles in center court during the ceremony at halftime of Saturday’s game.

The picture from the championship game. Zausch was standing out of frame to the right.

The picture from the championship game. Zausch was standing out of frame to the right.

Each of the seven players in attendance stood up to address his former teammates, talking about memories of their former coach, Arad McCutchan, some of their best wins on the season, or just reflecting on what their time in an Aces uniform meant to them.

But one player, Ed Zausch, the starting center who averaged 7.6 points per game as a senior that year, went to the podium to “correct an injustice” that’s been haunting him for the past 50 years.

The picture from the championship game sat on an easel next to the podium where the players spoke. When it was Zausch’s turn to speak, he went up, stood to the right of the picture and lifted his right pointer finger up like the other players in the photo.

His wife took a few pictures, and Zausch returned to the podium. When the picture was originally taken, Zausch, who was standing just to the right in the original photo, was cut out of the frame, and wanted to make sure he was in the picture, even if it was 50 years later.

“Thank god,” he joked. “It’s been so many years that I’ve had to live with that sort of situation.”

His story was received with much laughter and Zausch promised that he’d print copies and give it to all the players.

Current head coach Marty Simmons was also in attendance to thank the former players for supporting the current Aces in their hopes of achieving what the 1963-64 team did 50 years ago.

“We’re so appreciative for you you’ve supported us in our pursuit of getting there,” Simmons said.

The Morning After: Miami (Ohio)

Moore complemented Mockevicius in the paint yesterday as the Aces went with a bigger lineup

Moore complemented Mockevicius in the paint yesterday as the Aces went with a bigger lineup.

Story from yesterday afternoon’s bounce-back win:

–Courier & Press: http://bit.ly/J3NziJ

A few observations:

–Like a few of the players said after the game, there was a weird energy to the pace. I’d agree. A ton of fouls and a few too many turnovers will keep the possessions down and the clock stoppage up, which doesn’t allow a team get into rhythm or build momentum — that could be a reason why the Aces weren’t able to pull away from Miami when they built the lead to double digits. But good for UE to be able to keep pushing to maintain its lead despite many turnovers and lots of fouls — there will probably be a couple more games like this, and teams can’t afford to fall apart when momentum or pace isn’t going their way.

–It’s probably been understated in recent games, but sophomore center Egidijus Mockevicius has really come into his own in the past three games. He tallied his first career double-double Saturday afternoon with 17 points and 13 rebounds, and is really becoming a force down low. There were some missed opportunities but he did a fine job staying out of foul trouble (he played a season-high 29 minutes) and establishing his position against the RedHawk big men in the paint — he didn’t get outmuscled or outmatched.

–That being said, I’m really liking the two big man look with Mockevicius and junior forward Jaylon Moore. We saw it for the first time against Murray State — not sure why that was the first time the Aces have played that all season — and again against Miami. I think with all the success the duo has had in the past two games (Mockevicius and More both putting up career numbers and a handful of dunks between them), the Aces will go with this lineup more, barring any foul trouble. Head coach Marty Simmons said the lineup also had to do with matchups, which is very true, but if you have two big men having success at the same time, play them until it doesn’t work.

Postgame quotes:

–Head coach Marty Simmons on Egidijus Mockevicius’ recent play: “He’s got a high ceiling. He’s playing some good basketball, and he can be really good. He does so many things — if he’s not blocking shots, he’s changing shots. When you have somebody in there like that, the other team always knows he’s around.”

–Simmons on Mockevicius and Moore in together: “A lot of it is matchups. If the matchups are right, we’re able to do that. I think Jaylon is a versatile player, where he plays some minutes at the ‘5,’ plays some minutes at the ‘4.’ At times today we had to go to zone to keep him in there because they had four guards.”

UE News and Notes for Dec. 6, 2013

–Starting today, 2014 men’s and women’s basketball all-session MVC Championship tickets go on sale. The men’s tournament will take place from March 6-9 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, while the women’s tournament is at the same venue from March13-16. All-session tickets for the men (nine games) start at $115 while the women’s go for as low as $55. More information can be found at the MVC website.

–Marshall Ray, assistant coach for the UE men’s soccer team, was named the Midwest Region Assistant Coach of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Thursday afternoon. He was one of eight assistants to receive the regional honor at the Division-I level.

–Despite a loss, the UE men’s basketball team looked more confident and together against Murray State Wednesday night. I wrote a story for today’s paper about how the Aces say they’re getting their confidence back, and how they hope to find a leader or two soon.

–The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams’ meet in Columbia, Ky., was cancelled due to unsafe weather conditions. The Aces were to compete in a triangular meet against Lindsey Wilson and Cumberland College.

–The men’s soccer team is hosting the “Kick the Cold, Give a Coat” campaign for the eighth-straight year. The Aces will be collecting new or gently used coats for the Evansville area. Donations can be dropped off in the Carson Center through December 10.

The Morning After: Murray State

Mockevicius had another solid game in the paint with 12 points and 7 rebounds.

Mockevicius had another solid game in the paint with 12 points and 7 rebounds.

Stories from the 65-63 nailbiter last night:

–Courier & Press: http://bit.ly/1co6qiT
–Murray Ledger & Times: http://bit.ly/18o3Epl

Some reactions:

–Balentine got the call for the final play, but wasn’t able to get a good look at the basket. Sure, a 3-pointer from Blake Simmons wasn’t ideal, but Balentine was double-teamed off the screen at the top of the key and was forced to make a play. At the end of the game, the ball was in the right player’s hands — good for Marty Simmons to put faith in his playmaker — but ultimately, the shot wasn’t there.

–The game could’ve gotten out of hand early in the first half. UE committed six turnovers in the opening minutes but only found itself down by as many as 11 points. The Aces closed the gap to a point, thanks in part to a much better shooting percentage than the past two road games, before a 3-pointer put Murray State up by four at the break. After the early mishaps, UE committed just four turnovers the rest of the game while shooting 47.1 percent on the night.

–The interior was much more solid for the Aces than it probably has been all season. Even with Ryan Sawvell’s departure, UE had sophomore center Egidijus Mockevicius and junior forward Jaylon Moore step up last night. Mockevicius had his second consecutive double-figure game last night, posting 12 points and adding seven rebounds while Moore played 22 minutes in relief and chipped in 10 points. Moore was the Aces’ leading scorer (eight points) at halftime. UE held Murray State’s two big men, Jonathan Fairell and Jarvis Williams, to a combined 16 points, as well, and tied the Racers (32 each) in rebounding. Simmons said the rebounding was better than it had been in past road games.

–Stat to note: Without the 3-point line, the Aces would’ve won this game, 63-55. The Racers hit a season-high 10 3-pointers in the game (10-for-22).

UE News and Notes for Dec. 3, 2013

–Senior Stephanie Thompson added another accolade to her resume as she was named to the Capital One Academic All-American Third Team. Thompson is the second player in UE women’s soccer program history to earn Capital One Academic All-American honors, as she helped lead the Aces with seven points this season. Thompson was also named to the All-MVC First Team as well as the MVC Scholar Athlete First Team due in part to her 4.0 GPA.

–Word has surely gotten out by now that junior forward Ryan Sawvell has left the men’s basketball team. The program released an official statement yesterday afternoon and head coach Marty Simmons commented on Sawvell’s departure yesterday in practice, but Sawvell himself broke the silence with this tweet Monday night:

There’s speculation that he’s looking to transfer to Kentucky Wesleyan College, where he was seen watching a game. Sawvell is good friends with assistance coach Andy Chinn.

The Morning After: Indiana

Stories from last night’s 77-46 drubbing at Assembly Hall:

–Courier & Press: http://bit.ly/1bTYcvm
–Indianapolis Star: indy.st/1csVE9i
–Bloomington Herald-Times: http://bit.ly/195Wpm6

Some observations:

–Obviously the start of the game wasn’t too strong and it was unfortunate for the Aces that they missed their first 11 shots. But it was telling when sophomore guard D.J. Balentine missed his first two free throws three minutes into the game — his fourth and fifth misses of the season (he previously was 51-of-54). That was probably a sign of the poor night UE was going to have.  Sure, the stats through the first five games were extremely good, but Tuesday night’s stats were probably lower than what UE will average the rest of the season.

Some comparison:

  Stats through the first 5 games Tuesday night stats Current stats
Shooting % 56.6% 29.1% 51.7%
3-point % 52.7% 18.8% 45.1%
Free throw % 79.8% 50.0% 76.2%

The numbers haven’t dropped too considerably, and since it’s so early in the season, things will average out over the course of the year. UE will probably have a couple more nights like this, too — it’s just how sports work.

–Shutting down Noah Vonleh, especially on the boards, was a focal point for the Aces heading into the game. Foul trouble didn’t help UE. Again, sophomore center Egidijus Mockevicius picked up early fouls — his third came just 37 seconds into the second half and he played just 14 minutes — and junior forwards Ryan Sawvell and Jaylon Moore were too undersized to compete with Vonleh or any of the 6-foot-7-plus players IU put in the game. What should’ve been most evident to the night the Aces were going to have in the paint was the starting lineup: the Hoosiers started four players, all listed as forwards, standing at least 6-foot-7, while UE listed four guards in its starting five, none over 6-foot-5.

–The Aces were effective in stopping the Hoosiers in transition, though. Even though UE had so, so many one-shot possessions, it was able to get down the floor on defense quickly to stop IU from running — the Hoosiers scored 19 points in transition. But it came at a cost: Indiana collected 39 defensive rebounds, and the Aces were probably limited to one-shot possessions because the players were worried about getting back on defense instead of crashing the offensive glass.

–Freshman guard Duane Gibson showed a few glimpses of aggressiveness in the game. Evan Gordon, who was guarding Gibson when he was in the game, picked up two quick fouls late in the second half and headed to the bench. IU put Will Sheehey on Gibson, and though it was a size mismatch — Sheehey is at least five inches taller — Gibson was more explosive. UE started to run the pick and roll and Gibson got to the basket numerous times. Good adjustment by the freshman there.

–This was probably the best chance UE has had in beating Indiana. The Aces were getting offense from everywhere and the Hoosiers are the most inexperienced they’ve been in several years. It’s just too bad for the Aces that it was in Assembly Hall and that shots weren’t falling. It could’ve been a different came if UE hit a couple of those shots early on and were down by just single digits at halftime. Curious to see if Indiana will continue its home-and-home series with the Aces after last night’s game.

Some quotes:

–Indiana sophomore forward Jeremy Hollowell on IU’s defense: “I feel like with this team, we have a good switching team. A lot of people can guard a lot of different guys, so, I mean, not so much we have to fight through the screens all the time. We can switch, not switch just to switch, but switch to help us out and take things away and I think that is really beneficial to us.

–UE head coach Marty Simmons on the size mismatch: “No, I think it just comes down to cutting and screening on offense. Defensively, I felt like we did a lot of good things throughout the entire game, but when you give up 19 offensive boards, it kils you. You have to finish possessions with defensive rebounds. I thought our defensive effort was probably better than it showed, however.”

–Hollowell on guarding Balentine: “I think getting up and making him put it on the floor a lot more. Like I said, when he was coming off the screens, we really switched it a lot and coming off, we tried to double and blitz it and get it out of his hands.”

The Morning After: Anderson

Story from last night’s 91-68 win over Anderson:

–Courier & Press: http://bit.ly/ImRXIC

Blake Simmons tied his career high with 15 points last night.

Blake Simmons tied his career high with 15 points last night.

Some observations:

–Though a solid win, the game was just sluggish. The Aces couldn’t get out to a big lead until their 17-0 run to open the second half and they had some issues on defense. And UE probably needed a slow game like this to bring to light a few things the team can work on before conference play. The biggest things, according to the players, are energy and effort. The Aces played with fire in the first half against Valparaiso, but surrendered 62 points in the second half due to lackadaisical defense, and had just a five-minute spurt against Anderson where the team was playing at another level. That won’t fly against tougher opponents, and the team realizes this. They’ll adjust.

–Offense isn’t an issue for this team. Four players scored in double figures, UE scored 91 points, the team shot over 57.7 percent from the field. This team can shoot, and can shoot well, and has the ability to get to the free throw line. The Aces were in the bonus with 12 minutes left in the first half and took 30 foul shots last night. Points will come naturally to this squad if they keep being aggressive and looking for the right shot on each possession.

–Freshman guard Duane Gibson is a versatile point guard. Against Mercer he scored a career-high 23 points and against Valparaiso he had 12 points and 10 assists, but didn’t score a point or tally a rebound last night, though had 11 assists. It just wasn’t his night to score. Head coach Marty Simmons said he is a pass-first point guard, and though Gibson’s shown his ability to create of the dribble, when it’s not his night to score, he knows it and becomes the distributor. Gibson embodied the unselfish play the Aces are known for against Anderson, but I’m sure Simmons wouldn’t mind if Gibson got a couple of buckets.

Some quotes:

–Blake Simmons on the pace of the game: “It was all effort. The first half we really didn’t play with any heart; we were sluggish. In the second half, we got together and were like, ‘Let’s go right from the get-go.’ We wanted to play as hard as we can in the first four minutes and get the lead up and I thought we did a good job of it.”

–Ryan Sawvell on the biggest issue of the game: “I think our focus this game especially was just on the defensive end of the floor because the last game, Valparaiso scored 62 points on us in the second half. That was our emphasis in practice. … We didn’t play very well in the first half but the second half we did a little bit better job and that was with our effort.

–Head coach Marty Simmons on the team’s defense: “It’s just defensive breakdowns where we have to really work these next couple days to get ready for that challenge.”

UE News and Notes for Nov. 24, 2013

Aside from the men’s basketball game last night, there was plenty of UE sporting events going on. Here’s a rundown of what happened:

–The women’s basketball team got its first win over Austin Peay in program history as the Aces defeated the Lady Govs, 65-50. Junior Mallory Ladd recorded her third consecutive double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds and freshman guard Sara Dickey continued to be one of UE’s best offensive weapons, tallying 19 points in the win.

–Despite an ankle injury Friday night, Rachel TenHoor was able to set the program record for hitting percentage in a season. TenHoor finished with .321 while the Aces dropped their final match of the season to Indiana State, 3-1.

–The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are done with two of three days of competition at the House of Champions meet in Indianapolis. Full results can be found here.

The Morning After: Valparaiso

Sawvell tallied 14 points in his 16 minutes off the bench, both highs for the season.

Sawvell tallied 14 points in his 16 minutes off the bench, both highs for the season.

Stories from last night’s 100-92 win over Valparaiso:

–Courier & Press: http://bit.ly/18r4oxj

–Post-Tribune: http://bit.ly/18b9IqX

Some observations:

–That was a very solid Valparaiso team the Aces beat last night. The Crusaders were the two-time defending regular-season Horizon League champions and has an outstanding freshman forward in Alec Peters, as shown by his 30-point performance last night. Valpo is now 2-3 after losing three straight to Illinois, Ohio and Evansville by 12, four, and eight points, respectively — respectable losses against tournament teams. Come March, this win will be one that sticks out.

–Holy D.J. Balentine. The sophomore guard started off hot from the floor, scoring 16 points in the first 12 minutes of the game, including a 4-for-4 mark from beyond the arc and a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line. Valparaiso starts three players over 6-foot-9, which allowed Balentine and the other guards to attack off the dribble, and that’s Balentine’s specialty. And when the Crusaders went to zone, Balentine sat outside the 3-point line and made them pay. It’s just too bad his perfect 29 points per game average was ruined.

–And not to be outshined by Balentine was the Aces’ bench. Junior forwards Ryan Sawvell and Jaylon Moore. Sawvell played a season-high 16 minutes while contributing a career-high 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting and Moore had a couple of baskets early and played better defense against the Crusaders’ big men than any other forward or center on UE. He’s the most physical post player for the Aces by far.

–Can’t forget sophomore forward Adam Wing, who’s having a fantastic sophomore campaign. He scored a career-high 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting and knocked down all six of his foul shots. Wing is by far the most efficient scorer for UE, shooting 70.4 percent from the floor.

–Though UE played a solid first half, the Crusaders made their second-half surge as always, scoring 62 points. That’s ridiculous. The Aces still shot over 50 percent in the second half but took 11 less shots while Valparaiso knocked down nine of its 12 total 3-pointers in the second half, four of which came in the final four minutes of the game. It also turned three UE turnovers — seven of its nine total came in the second half — between the 7:40 and 3:44 marks of the second half into 11 points thanks to full-court pressure and rookie mistakes by the Aces. UE did a fine job handling the ball for most of the game, but when the Crusaders made their run, they stumbled a bit. That’s just a sign of a young team; it should only get better from here.

–One more concern (again): Sophomore forward Egidijus Mockevicius. Where’s the Mockevicius from the Illinois-Springfield exhibition game, where he held his own against the Prairie Stars’ big man? He got in foul trouble yet again and scored just one basket that came off of a dunk with under six minutes to play to extend UE’s lead to 17 points. Mockevicius also didn’t have a rebound. With Valparaiso’s big lineup, you’d expect him to have made a bit more noise, but I guess his lack of production is a reason he only played 16 minutes while Sawvell and Moore did a better job on both sides of the ball.

Some quotes:

–Balentine on Valparaiso’s second-half comeback tendencies: “We watched film on it, we see that they come back a lot. It’s really on us. We need to maintain what we did in the first half and we didn’t really do that that well tonight, but we got the job done. That’s all that matters.”

–Head coach Marty Simmons on the tale of two halves for the Aces: “We really felt like in the first half we got by — they missed some shots, they weren’t finishing. We didn’t feel really good at half, defensively, and we just felt a step slow. We have to get better at that. We have to get back to fundamentals with stance, with jumping to the ball, helping on the penetration — all the little things. On a positive note, our guys kept playing the game. We kept scoring the basketball.”

–Sawvell on the Crusaders’ ability to get to the basket: “That was one of the huge things we were talking about in practice (Wednesday) was that they’re a driving team. We knew they were capable 3-point shooters — we weren’t expecting Peters to be shooting that well at the end of the game, he was lights out — but that was the biggest thing in the game plan.”

–Simmons on the five players in double figures: “If we’re going to be successful, we have to be unselfish. We have a lot of guys on this team who can score the basketball. We don’t need guys looking to make plays for themselves. If we just take what the defense gives us, we have a lot of weapons.”

UE News and Notes for Nov. 20, 2013

–The men’s and women’s basketball team both play tonight at the Ford Center in another doubleheader. The women will take on Ball State at 5:30 p.m., as both teams are looking to rebound from two consecutive losses, and the men host Valparaiso in the second of three home games for the squad this week. Both previews can be found in today’s paper, as well as online here.

–Two women’s soccer players were named to the Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete first team on Tuesday. Sophomore Allie Arguello and senior Stephanie Thompson earned the honors, each boasting a 4.0 GPA in addition to starting for the Aces.

–As reported earlier, the women’s basketball team signed South Bend Adams guard Taloni Reese to an NLI last Thursday. Reese averaged 11.5 points per game for Adams last season.

–Lots of non-basketball recruiting news: The volleyball team signed four players to NLIs yesterday, the softball team received an NLI from California product Haylee Tracy for the 2014-15 season, and the women’s swimming team got a commitment from Oklahoma swimmer Kasey Rein today.