Southern Illinois (7-6, 0-2) at Evansville Purple Aces (8-6, 1-1)
Missouri Valley Conference Game 3/18
Game Time: 8 p.m. Saturday
Location: Ford Center
Broadcast: WUEV 91.5 FM, MVC-TV
Live Coverage: Follow on Twitter (@ECP_Lintner)
Spread: UE -8.5 at Vegas Insider
UE’s Probable Starters: Troy Taylor, Ned Cox, Colt Ryan, Lewis Jones, Egidijus Mockevicius
Southern Illinois’ Probable Starters: Kendal Brown-Surles, Jeff Early, Desmar Jackson, Anthony Beane, Davante Drinkard
Last Meeting: UE lost 53-52 in Carbondale last Feb. 4.
Series History: Southern Illinois leads the all-time series 65-49, but the Aces are 34-22 when the games are played in Evansville.
Jan. 4: Playing small may be fact of life for UE, Southern Illinois
Jan. 3: Aces’ Ryan will be thinking about brother on Military Appreciation Night
Jan. 3: Salukis in search of better guard play at Evansville
Jan. 3: Bradley pulls out win over Southern Illinois at home
Jan. 3: With size issues, zone a necessity for Salukis
Jan. 2: UE uses overtime to dispatch Missouri State, get first MVC win
—Following a 6-2 start, Southern Illinois has dropped three of its last four games and has lost seven straight MVC games dating back to last season. The Aces meanwhile snapped a two-game losing streak with Wednesday’s win over Missouri State.
—Southern Illinois is 7-0 when its bench scores at least 13 points and 0-6 when it tallies fewer. This season, UE’s bench has out-scored opponents’ 380-258. The Missouri State game was a major exception, with the Bears’ reserves scoring 25 to just two points for UE.
—UE senior Troy Taylor’s 19 rebounds Wednesday against Missouri State marked the first time an Aces player grabbed 15 or more boards since Nate Garner did it against Western Kentucky on Dec. 14, 2008.
—Senior Colt Ryan has scored 13 or more points in eight of nine games since coming back from a hip pointer injury. The one exception came against Division II Oakland City, when he had seven. Ryan has hit 38 of 42 free throws this season, a rate that tops the Missouri Valley Conference and is 12th nationally.
—With five blocks against Missouri State, freshman Egidijus Mockevicius has 15 on the season. Kenny Harris had 19 all of last season to lead UE. Mockevicius’ career-high 18 points against Missouri State came on a 6 of 6 shooting night.
—UE out-rebounded Missouri State, moving to 6-0 on the season when it does so. The Aces are 2-6 when they’re beat on the boards.
—Southern Illinois will have just one player taller than 6-foot-5 available on Saturday: senior Devante Drinker, a player who’s battled injuries. Forwar Dantiel Daniels is out with an ankle injury, and guard Diamond Taylor is suspended through the middle of this month. Also, forward Antonio Bryer left the team earlier this season and will transfer.
UE coach Marty Simmons on playing small against the Salukis: “We were fortunate (Wednesday against Missouri State). We’ll learn from it. We’ll have to get ready again Saturday, because Southern (Illinois) is going to throw some lineups out there the same. Where it helps you defensively is when you have five perimeter guys out there and you’re able to switch on ball screens, and you’re able to get up and take away 3-point shots. When you’ve got a 6-10 guy trying to help on those screens on a perimeter guy, now (that guy) is quicker on the rotation, and it’s hard to get back in front of them.”
Simmons talks about the importance of the Aces’ first MVC win: “I think with our team – where we’re at – we’ve got to take it one day at a time and just try to get a little bit better. We’ve got to get some confidence and hopefully play really well on Saturday
UE senior Troy Taylor on winning a close game over Missouri State: “We have to keep it rolling. We have to ride this momentum. Everybody’s feeling good right now, and we’ve just got to make sure we get better in practice, because Southern (Illinois) – they’re a really good team…When you look at the standings last year, every team lost about three games, and we just can’t let games slip, come back at the end and bite us. That’s what happened last year when we could have got a solid third or even could have been in the second position. But we lost so many games on last-second shots, and we don’t want to go through that again this year.”
Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson on personnel issues this season: “I used this analogy earlier in the year with the press: We’re house training right now, and we’re on 24/7 watch. We’ve had major issues off the floor. We’ve had major issues on the floor. We’ve had major issues academically, and right now we’re just plugging holes every day. But I do see that we can stay afloat for more than a couple days. I’ve been here the Thursday since the national championship game. We’ve not had one week where we haven’t had problems. That takes its toll on you sooner or later.”
Hinson on matching up against UE’s Egidijus Mockevicius: “It’s the same nightmare we have with everybody else. When we run our 6-2 guy in there on him, everybody gets kind of excited. Right now, we’re guarding 6-10, 6-11 with 6-2. As long as we can kind of keep Davante (Drinkard) out of foul trouble and keep him loose, because his feet are just giving him so much problems right now. I told you in our last press conference, we’re just hanging on a thread every day with him with his injury. Hopefully, we’ll just continue to get him a little bit healthier, but I don’t think that’s going to be possible with how much we’re having to play him.”
Outlook: This is a game UE should win going away. Of course, that was the prediction for the Missouri State game as well. The Aces are just an 8.5-point favorite versus the Salukis rather than 15 against the Bears, but Wednesday’s game should (ideally) serve as a wake up call as well as lesson of how UE should play against small lineups.