Evansville Purple Aces (4-2) at Colorado State Rams (5-0)
Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge
Game Time: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Location: Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo.
Broadcast: 91.5 WUEV, Ram Vision
Live Coverage: Follow on Twitter (@ECP_Lintner)
Game Notes: Click here
Spread: Colorado State -9 at Vegas Insider
Last Meeting: This is the first between the Aces and Rams
UE’s Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge History:
2011: Texas Christian 70, UE 68 OT
2010: Air Force 57, UE 56
Nov. 30: UE aiming to extend winning streak to five games
Nov. 30: Mountain West looking for a new conference ‘Challenge’?
Nov. 29: Aces have 24 hours to adjust to mountain air
Nov. 29: Colorado State’s leading rebounder may not play against UE
Nov. 28: D.J. Balentine providing UE another weapon off the bench
Nov. 27: Jaylon Moore showing improvement, but Aces want him agressive
Nov. 26: Colt Ryan returns as UE rolls to win over Alabama A&M
—UE is aiming for its first five-game winning streak since the Jim Crews-coached Aces won nine in a row during the 1999-2000 season. Wins on UE’s current streak have come against Yale, Western Illinois, Tennessee Tech and Alabama A&M.
—Colorado State returns three starters from a team that went to the NCAA tournament last season. The Rams are coached by Larry Eustachy, formerly of Southern Mississippi, who replaced Tim Miles when he left for Nebraska. They’re out-scoring opponents by 18.2 points per game.
—Colorado State has a huge rebound differential so far this season, grabbing 43.6 boards per game to opponents’ 26.6. Though the Aces were out-rebounded by 10 a game last season and the first four games this year, they finished with an average eight-rebound advantage over the last two games, both wins.
—The Rams have won 16 straight games in their home Moby Arena.
—UE’s team defense of 51.7 points allowed per game ranks top 10 in the nation, and it’s vastly improved from the 70-plus the Aces surrendered last season. Notre Dame’s 58 points in the season-opener were the most scored by an opponent so far.
—Sophomore Jaylon Moore has scored more points (32) already this season than he did all of last season (30). During the Aces’ current winning streak, he’s gone 14-for-19 (73.7 percent) from the field.
—Senior Colt Ryan scored a team-high 13 points and added 7 assists Monday against Alabama A&M in his return from a hip pointer injury.
—Since starting the season 7 of 30 from the field, senior Ned Cox is 14 of 34 and is UE’s leading scorer with 10.2 points per game.
—Colorado State’s Colton Iverson, a Minnesota transfer, averages 16.6 points and 11 rebounds per game. Iverson leads the Mountain West in rebounding with teammate Pierce Hornung (who may not play Saturday). Hornung gets 12 boards a game.
—In games that UE wins, freshman D.J. Balentine averages 11 points. He’s second on the team in scoring with 8.8 points per game. A sharpshooter, Balentine leads the Aces in 3-point shooting with nine makes this season and is also 6-for-6 on free throws.
—Freshman Egidijus Mockevicius averages 1.8 blocks per game, good for fourth in the MVC. He has 11 blocks on the season, and the Aces’ leading rebounder last year, Kenneth Harris, had 19.
Coach Marty Simmons scouts Colorado State: “They’ve got a lot of weapons, and they execute extremely well. They’re unselfish and starting five seniors. But that’s how they play. They’re tough-minded, physical, execute extremely well and play as hard as any team we play.”
Simmons on the Rams’ Colton Iverson, a Minnesota transfer: “He’s just a monster inside who reminds me a lot of (Notre Dame’s Jack) Cooley. He’s great in the post but is also an offensive rebounder.”
Freshman D.J. Balentine on playing Colorado State and Murray State: “This will show our toughness and where we stand. We’ll face two of the top programs in the county, so if we beat them – especially Colorado State at Colorado State – it’ll give us a big boost of confidence heading into the conference.”
Sophomore Jordan Nelson on the effort necessary to win a game: “Every night, we’ve got to come out and give it everything we have. Don’t do anything like, come off the floor and say, ‘What if I’d done this.’”
Nelson on Colorado State’s rebounding ability: “We’ve got to keep them off the glass. We’ve got to focus on blocking out, defensive rebounds and looking to push.”
Outlook: UE is somewhat of an unknown commodity after playing so well without Colt Ryan, then continuing that against a lesser opponent in Alabama A&M earlier this week. Consider Colorado State (and Murray State a week later) the true litmus tests of what this Aces team can accomplish. Two losses, and you can expect last season to repeat itself. A win or even two could mean big things for UE, which heads into Colorado State an underdog.