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.

Posted by & filed under Women's Basketball.

Basic info: Austin Peay (0-1) at Evansville (0-0); 1 p.m. CT Sunday; Ford Center.

Radio: WUEV 91.5 FM

Preview story: Unlocking Kenyia Johnson’s athleticism key for Aces

Three key questions entering today’s game:

Will Langston show up?: After Evansville’s exhibition loss to Division II University of Southern Indiana, Aces coach Oties Epps said he wanted to see freshman forward Peyton Langston “come out of her shell.”

Epps has been high on the versatile 6-footer, reporting that she had a double-double during UE’s closed scrimmage against Southeast Missouri State. But she was a virtual nonfactor in the loss to USI. Langston’s emergence is even more important with Evansville being shorthanded. With the Aces only dressing eight players for this game, they can’t afford for one of their most talented players to be passive.

Can UE slow down Gray?: It was understood that junior guard Tiasha Gray would spearhead Austin Peay’s attack this season, but that’s even more obvious now. Gray, a preseason all-Ohio Valley Conference selection, had 37 points in the Governors’ 85-73 season-opening loss to Wright State. She shot 11-for-23 from the field, 6-for-13 from 3-point range and 9 of 13 from the foul line. Gray also had seven rebounds, seven turnovers, four assists and four steals.

How will Evansville’s defense look?: USI shot 57 percent from the floor against Evansville last weekend, prompting the Aces to focus primarily on defense in practice this week. The Aces didn’t cover the baseline very well in their 2-3 zone and also gave up some easy baskets when the Eagles thwarted their full-court pressure. Epps said the Aces needed to “shore up” their defensive execution quickly to have success early this season, so it will be interesting to see how much UE has improved in that area.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

University of Evansville junior guard D.J. Balentine was named to the 2014-15 Lou Henson Award watch list on Wednesday. The Lou Henson Award is given to the Division I mid-major player of the year.

Balentine led the Missouri Valley Conference with 22.8 points per game last season en route to first-team all-conference honors.

The complete watch list can be found here.

As a team, Evansville was ranked No. 19 nationally in the preseason mid-major top 25, compiled by collegeinsider.com. UE is one of five MVC teams represented in the poll; Wichita State (1), Northern Iowa (5), Illinois State (20) and Missouri State (21) are the others.

A pair of the Aces’ nonconference opponents made the list: Belmont (8) and Murray State (12). Two of the other teams in the mid-major top 25 — Green Bay (9) and Florida Gulf Coast (23) — could face Evansville during the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla., during Thanksgiving week.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Four scorers reached double figures for the University of Evansville men’s basketball team Saturday as the Aces routed Division III Wabash 95-50 in front of 3,936 fans in an exhibition game at the Ford Center.

Junior guard D.J. Balentine led all scorers with 22 points. He knocked down seven of 11 field-goal attempts and all six of his free throws. Adam Wing finished with 16 points, followed by Blake Simmons with 12 and Mislav Brzoja with 11.

Daniel Purvlicis paced Wabash with 13 points while Castle High School product Kyle Aiton had 11.

The Aces shot 56.6 percent from the field and assisted on 19 of their 30 baskets.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Evansville junior Adam Wing posted 11 points and the Aces went on an extended 18-2 run late in the half to gain some separation.

Wing had eight consecutive points in less than a minute — scoring a 3-pointer, a layup and a traditional three-point play after a nifty no-look pass from D.J. Balentine.

Wabash played the Aces tough early, even leading 13-12 after Kyle Aiton hit a pull-up jump shot with 12:59 in the half. Aiton, a Castle High School product, had 11 points to pace the Little Giants.

Nine players scored in the first half for UE and the Aces had nine assists on their 12 made field goals. Balentine had eight points, while sophomore Blake Simmons and Duane Gibson had seven and six, respectively.

Posted by & filed under Women's Basketball.

After trailing by as many as 14 points in the second half, the University of Evansville women’s basketball team pulled within two during the final minutes of its exhibition game against University of Southern Indiana.

USI knew exactly where to go in response.

The Eagles got the ball to senior Anna Hackert out of a timeout, and the 6-foot-1 forward flipped in a left-handed jump hook to stave off UE’s rally. Division II USI held off Evansville by a 76-72 score behind Hackert’s 31 points and 10 rebounds.

USI guard Mariah Nimmo tallied 13 points and hit three 3-pointers. The Eagles shot 56.6 percent from the field and outrebounded UE 42-24.

Sophomore guard Sara Dickey led the Aces with 31 points and senior forward Mallory Ladd had 16 points and six rebounds.

Check our website or Sunday’s print edition of the Courier & Press for the full game recap.

 

Posted by & filed under Women's Basketball.

The University of Southern Indiana women’s basketball team shot a blistering 63 percent from the field Saturday in taking a 38-32 halftime lead over the University of Evansville.

USI forward Anna Hackert leads all scorers with 16 points on 8 of 10 shooting. Sophomore guard Sara Dickey has 11 points to lead Evansville, while senior forward Mallory Ladd has 10.

The Division II Screaming Eagles used a 10-0 run early in the half to grab a 23-11 advantage. UE later closed the gap with a 7-0 spurt, but USI’s Mariah Nimmo canned a 3-pointer with 38 seconds left to give the Eagles their six-point cushion.

Evansville is shooting 11-for-30 from the field (36.7 percent) and has missed several shots in the paint. USI has 13 assists compared to five for UE. The Eagles are routinely finding Hackert on post-ups and cuts to the basket.