Alabama A&M Bulldogs (2-2) at Evansville Purple Aces (3-2)
Game Time: 7:05 p.m. Monday
Location: Ford Center
Broadcast: 91.5 WUEV, Aces TV
Game Notes: Click here
Spread: TBA at Vegas Insider
Last Meeting: This is the first between the Aces and Bulldogs.
Nov. 26: Marty Simmons still deciding who will play post for Aces
Nov. 25: Colt Ryan resumes practice, hopes to play Monday
Nov. 23: Adam Wing hoping to one day soar for UE
Nov. 22: Motivation from Marty Simmons propels improved UE defense
Nov. 21: Missouri Valley Conference teams can bolster national respect
Nov. 20: Ned Cox leads UE to win over Tennessee Tech, Aces’ third straight
—Though UE has never played Alabama A&M, the Aces are 5-0 all-time against fellow Southwestern Athletic Conference foes: 2-0 against Alabama State and Alcorn State and 1-0 against Jackson State.
—UE has held its last two opponents to 50 points or less. Western Illinois tallied just 44 before Tennessee Tech put up 50 last Tuesday. The Aces kept the opposition under 50 just once last season, also against Western Illinois.
—UE’s 52.8 points per game scoring defense is currently 11th in the nation and first in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Aces’ +5.40 turnover margin is also best in the MVC.
—Having won three straight, UE is aiming for its first four-game winning streak since Feb. 8, 2011, when it finished successive wins against Bradley, Indiana State, Southern Illinois and Missouri State.
—With senior Colt Ryan limited because of injury, freshman D.J. Balentine has stepped up over the last three games to average double figures — 11.7 points per game against Yale, Western Illinois and Tennessee Tech. Ned Cox is averaging the same with Ryan out.
—With 1,611 career points, Ryan is just 625 behind Larry Humes on UE’s all-time scoring list.
—Sophomore Jaylon Moore’s nine points against Tennessee Tech were a career high. He scored 30 points all of last year and has 22 through five games this season. He also had 13 points in UE’s exhibition win over USI.
—Seniors Troy Taylor and Ned Cox are the only players to start all five of UE’s games this season.
Coach Marty Simmons scouts Alabama A&M: “They’re a very aggressive team both offensively and defensively. They’ll press you man to man, and they play a very aggressive man to man in the half court. They play a lot of guys. They’ve got two point guards who are really quick, can penetrate and make plays. The 7-1 kid (junior Justan Banks) is long, and when he’s not blocking shots he can make you know he’s there. He’s got great presence in there, and he can step out and shoot the perimeter shot. They’ve got long, athletic wings who can shoot 3s and drive the basketball. And they play really hard, so there will be some matchup problems there. Ultimately we’re going to have to play hard and well if we’re going to have a chance.”
Simmons on his his team has practiced after three straight wins: “They’ve been pretty much the same. I think they’re a pretty even-keeled bunch. They enjoyed having a couple days away from practice, and we’re just kind of working our way back into it.”
Simmons on who will start at center, freshman Egidijus Mockevicius or sophomore Ryan Sawvell: “We haven’t decided yet. I’m sure you’ll see those guys in there together. We’re just going to evaluate it on how guys do in practice, and a lot of that is based on matchups and how guys are performing in the games. We feel like we’ve got a pretty deep team to where if guys aren’t playing up to par, then we’ve got to have energy from our bench.”
Simmons on sophomore Rokas Cesnulevicius, who hasn’t seen action yet this season: “He’s doing everything that he can do right now. I think we’re playing nine or 10 guys, so it’s just keep working hard and be ready when the opportunity comes…We haven’t had any conversations (about redshirting him).”
Sawvell on facing Alabama A&M’s bigs: “We’ve got to be really aggressive just like we were against Tennessee Tech. They’re really big on the front line – they’ve got a guy 7-1 and they’ve got two 6-10 guys. We’ve got to just make sure we’re going up and attacking the rim hard.”
Senior Colt Ryan on his hip pointer injury: “It’s gotten better. I’ve kind of tried to relax it a little bit and stay away from irritating it at all. We had two days off, and on Thanksgiving I was able to go home to my family and stuff. It was nice to sit back, relax and let it heal up. I came back, and it felt better…I’m going to practice today and then talk to coach Simmons and the coaching staff to see how I feel and what I think is best. Then we’ll talk to our (medical) staff and kind of make a program-wide decision about what’s best for us and the team.”
Outlook: For a UE team that showed what it’s capable of without senior Colt Ryan at Tennessee Tech, the Aces should do much more when they likely have him available against Alabama A&M. Like coach Marty Simmons said, the Bulldogs have a few players that can cause matchup problems, but that applies to most every team on the schedule. Alabama A&M is the type of team UE should handle with relative ease so long as the Aces have Missouri Valley Conference championship aspirations.