Evansville Purple Aces (7-4) at Butler Bulldogs (8-2)
Game Time: 1 p.m. Saturday
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis
Broadcast: 91.5 WUEV, WNDY-TV
Live Coverage: Follow on Twitter (@ECP_Lintner)
Spread: Butler -10.5 at Vegas Insider
UE’s Probable Starters: Troy Taylor, Ned Cox, Colt Ryan, Lewis Jones, Egidijus Mockevicius
Butler’s Probable Starters: Alex Barlow, Rotnei Clark, Roosevelt Jones, Khyle Marshall, Andrew Smith
Last Meeting: UE won 80-77 in overtime — its Ford Center regular-season opener.
Recent Series History:
2011: UE 80, Butler 77 OT
2010: UE 71, Butler 68 OT
2009: Butler 64, UE 60
2008: Butler 75, UE 59
2007: Butler 60, UE 47
Dec. 21: UE looks for significant win at Butler
Dec. 21: Bulldogs have score to settle with Aces
Dec. 20: Tension rises for Aces’ next opponent: Butler’s Bulldogs
Dec. 20: Anderson’s Taylor ready for Hinkle homecoming
Dec. 20: Butler coach Stevens talks UE
Dec. 18: UE hits 100 in win over Oakland City
Dec. 17: Barlow not losing focus after giving Butler win
Dec. 15: Butler takes down No. 1 Indiana in OT
—UE leads the all-time series over Butler 62-55. Before the Aces won the last two meetings, the Bulldogs had claimed seven in a row.
—Tuesday’s UE win over Division II Oakland City University marked the first time since 2004 that the Aces have hit the 100-point mark and just the third time since the season opener of the 1995-1996 season. The 103 points versus the Mighty Oaks were, of course, an all-time high under coach Marty Simmons as well as a Ford Center record.
—Despite just seven points against Oakland City, senior Colt Ryan remains UE’s leading scorer with 12.4 points per game ahead of freshman D.J. Balentine (11.7) and senior Ned Cox (11.5). Ryan is averaging better than 15 points per game since returning from a hip pointer injury and scored a season-high 24 against Alabama State.
—Sophomore Ryan Sawvell combined to score 10 points in six games before the Aces’ win a week ago over Alabama State. But against the Hornets, he posted a season-high 11 before scoring a career-high 16 against Oakland City.
—Senior Troy Taylor, named this week to the Bob Cousy watch list for the nation’s top point guard, is the only player in the Missouri Valley Conference to lead his team in rebounding in rebounding (6.5 per game), assists (42) and steals (15).
—Butler, UE’s only Atlantic 10 foe this season, is one of two teams with multiple wins already this season over ranked teams. The other is still-unbeaten Duke.
—The Bulldogs are ranked 19th in The Associated Press’ top 25 poll and 25th by USA Today. They’ve have appeared in the major national polls in six of the past seven seasons.
—Butler is the fourth UE opponent this season that will be either ranked or receiving votes in national polls when the Aces play them. Others were Notre Dame, Colorado State and Murray State.
—Butler has yet to lose at home this season, and the Bulldogs have won at least 10 games a season in Hinkle Fieldhouse for the last 17 years. They’re 4-0 so far this season.
—Butler is 24-7 under coach Brad Stevens against teams from Indiana. The UE game marks the Bulldogs’ fifth this season against in-state foes. They’ve already defeated Hanover, Ball State, IUPUI and top-ranked Indiana.
—In games where UE leads at the half, opponents shoot an even 50 percent during the final 20 minutes. But the Aces hold foes to 36.9 percent shooting when they trail at the half.
UE coach Marty Simmons on his team heading into Butler: “I think they’ll be excited. Practices have been better, and this has been a rivalry for a long time. We’ll be disappointed if we’re not. You’re playing a Saturday afternoon game in Hinkle Fieldhouse, and there will be I don’t know how many fans there. That’s exciting.”
Simmons on a Butler series that goes way back: “We’ve got as much respect for them as anybody. They do things the right way. They graduate their guys. They’re really ethical and work hard. We’re similar in that we’re both small, private schools that used to play in the same conference together. I think it is a good rivalry. You know they’re going to be really good. They’re going to compete, and we’ve got to go up there and do the same.”
UE senior Troy Taylor on playing Butler after growing up in nearby Anderson, Ind.: “Butler and Ball State were the two teams I always watched, just because they were close to home. I knew a lot of guys growing up who went to those schools…I like playing teams such as Butler. I feel like we match up against them well, and it gives my family and friends who can’t travel all the way down here a chance to see us play.”
Taylor on Butler’s strengths: “Butler is a really good shooting team. We watched film of them against IU. Those guys, they moved the ball real well and have big guys who hit the glass. They also have phenomenal 3-point shooters. We’ve just got to make sure we’re disciplined on defense.”
Taylor on facing a team that just beat No. 1 Indiana: “Me, personally, I’m going to make sure these guys are ready, whether it’s getting on them before practice or getting them fired up before the game. Everybody knows how important this game is, and we’ve just got to go up there and handle business. It’s not like it’s impossible to do. We’ve done it before, and we’ve just got to have that same mentality.”
Butler coach Brad Stevens on the future of the series against UE: “I don’t know. I know we’re winding (the current contract) down at some point soon, but I don’t know when. I haven’t looked at it recently…I think the biggest thing for us is, every year we try to evaluate and decide what’s best for us moving forward and what’s best for our schedule. Obviously, the whole time I’ve been here, we’ve always played Evansville, and they’ve been great games. Nobody could respect them more as a program from a coaching perspective than I do. But at the end of the day, we’re going to evaluate all those different things on a year-by-year or at least two years ahead of time basis.”
Stevens on how he approaches the rivalry aspect of Saturday with the Bulldogs: “We won’t talk about it at all. I think one of the things we try to talk about with our team is that every team and every new year is a different, unique opportunity, so we don’t spend a lot of time talking about necessarily long-standing rivals or anything like that. I think we just try to focus on the game and task at hand.”
Outlook: This is UE’s last chance to make a non-conference statement before opening league play Dec. 29 against Creighton. It may come against the best team the Aces have played so far. Butler can beat you a number of ways, with four players averaging double figures, and even the Bulldogs’ losses were to quality opponents. Somehow, UE’s seniors have managed to play Butler close — even the two teams that made the Final Four. Why should this season be any different?