Drake Bulldogs (11-12, 5-7) at Evansville Purple Aces (13-11, 6-6)
Missouri Valley Conference Game 13/18
Game Time: 7:05 p.m. Sunday
Location: Ford Center
Broadcast: WUEV 91.5 FM, ESPN U
Live Coverage: Follow on Twitter (@ECP_Lintner)
Spread: UE -8 at Vegas Insider
UE’s Probable Starters: G Troy Taylor, G Ned Cox, F Colt Ryan, F Lewis Jones, C Egidijus Mockevicius
Drake’s Probable Starters: G Chris Hines, G Richard Carter, F Ben Simons, F Jordan Clarke, C Seth VanDeest
Last Meeting: Drake beat UE 83-69 on Jan. 16 at the Bulldogs’ Knapp Center. The loss started the Aces’ current streak of five straight MVC road defeats.
Series History: The teams are an even 19-19 in the all-time series, though UE owns a 10-7 advantage when playing on its home court. Drake has won four in a row.
Feb. 9: Foes getting tougher now with UE
Feb. 9: Game by game, playing time up for grabs at Drake
Feb. 8: Look for Aces, fans to wear orange on Sunday
Feb. 6: Drake falls at home to Illinois State
Feb. 6: Bulldogs play terrific, hand victory away
Feb. 5: Aces miss key shots late in loss at Bradley
—Sunday’s game marks the first that’s nationally televised this season for UE. Both the Drake game and Creighton the following weekend will be broadcast on ESPN U.
—While UE’s struggled away from home, losing its last five road games, the Aces are 11-2 at the Ford Center and 5-0 in Missouri Valley Conference games there. UE is one of three MVC teams, along with Creighton and Indiana State, still undefeated at home in conference play.
—UE senior Colt Ryan is six points away from 2,000, a mark just two other Aces players and 13 in MVC history have reached. He’s averaged 22.2 points per game in UE’s last 13 contests.
—Ryan has struggled more against Drake than perhaps any other MVC foe. He’s shot 27 of 77 (35.1 percent) in the Aces’ and Bulldogs’ last seven meetings.
—Drake has won five of its last eight games, often knocking off MVC opponents at their best: Creighton, Indiana State and UE after its win over Wichita State. The Bulldogs haven’t lost back-to-back games since an 0-4 start to league play.
—Drake’s 39.7 percent 3-point shooting ranks 12th in Division I, and its average 8.9 makes from beyond the arc are eighth nationally.
UE senior Ned Cox on the Aces’ Tuesday-Sunday scheduling this week: “With two days off, the main focus is making sure everyone gets their body right – get any nagging pains you have away. Getting in the gym and working on your individual game – that’s been big for us. And then mentally getting ready for what we have to do and getting in the mindset that we need two really good days of practice here and a full 40-minute effort to get a win on Sunday.”
Senior Colt Ryan on how UE handled the “off” days: “We wanted to make sure we stayed sharp, so we did things as a team those two days. The captains got the team together. We prepared for Drake a little bit, and it was good. We got to rest our bodies a little bit before finishing up this last stretch.”
Coach Marty Simmons on the defensive approach to Drake, one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the nation: “When we execute things that we want to do, we don’t always have success, but it puts us in a better position. When you get into a scramble, we put ourselves in a position not to be successful. We’ve got to be more sound with that.”
Ryan on UE’s problems during its current slump: “There’s a couple things. We can’t turn the ball over in crucial stretches. Our shot selection is not the greatest at times. Sometimes we try to shoot our way through things, and we take contested shots instead of working the ball a little bit longer and getting a better look at the basket.”
Cox on the Aces’ first loss this season at Drake: “They definitely tried to be tough with us. They tried to pound it inside a lot, so we think that’s probably what they’ll try to do again. When we were helping inside, that’s when they started creeping outside to get open shots. We’ve got to stop the penetration. They get a lot of shots when someone can penetrate and we have to help on it. We have a lot of things we have to clean up these next couple days.”
Outlook: Considering how UE’s played away from the Ford Center, this game takes on extra importance. With a win, the Aces move out of a tie for fourth in the MVC standings and send Drake further back into the fray. With a loss, the Aces sink back into a position where, if the season ends now, they could possibly looking at losing an MVC tournament bye.