Evansville Purple Aces (11-6, 4-1) at Drake Bulldogs (7-9, 1-4)
Missouri Valley Conference Game 6/18
Game Time: 7:05 p.m. Wednesday
Location: Knapp Center in Des Moines, Iowa
Broadcast: WUEV 91.5 FM
Live Coverage: Follow on Twitter (@ECP_Lintner)
Spread: UE -1.5 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 Micah Mason, F Ben Simons, F Jordan Clarke, C Seth VanDeest
Last Meeting: UE lost 78-54 at Drake on Feb. 12, 2012.
Series History: The Aces own an 19-18 series edge, and the teams are an even 9-9 on the Bulldogs’ home court. Drake has won three straight over UE, including both meetings last season.
Jan. 15: Aces set for another road test at Drake
Jan. 15: Bulldogs share goal with Aces
Jan. 14: Second-place Aces positioning themselves for March
Jan. 13: UE upsets 23rd-ranked Wichita State
Jan. 12: Rally pushes Drake to first league win
—With Sunday’s win over Wichita State, UE has for the first time in program history knocked off a ranked team in four straight seasons. The last two years, upset wins over ranked foes Butler and Creighton were followed with losses.
—UE is aiming for its first five-game winning streak since the Jim Crews-coached team won nine in a row in 1999-2000 — a season in which the Aces also started 4-1 in MVC play.
—Aces senior Colt Ryan’s 1,840 career points are 20th on the MVC’s all-time scoring list. He’ll crack the top 20 with 29 more points. Ryan has scored 20 or more points in five of UE’s last six games, pushing his average to a team-high 16.4 a game.
—In both of Drake’s wins over UE last season, the Bulldogs held the Aces under 60 points and kept Ryan in check. Ryan tallied a combined 13 points in those games on 4 of 14 shooting.
—UE senior Troy Taylor’s 9.8 rebounds per game in MVC contests are second among all players in league play. Taylor has also scored in double figures in the Aces’ last three games.
—While D.J. Balentine had scored just six points in five previous games, the freshman bounced back to tally eight in UE’s win over Wichita State.
—Drake has connected on 38.7 percent of its 3-point attempts this season, ranking 25th in the nation and second in the MVC. The Bulldogs are 7-0 this season when they shoot a better percentage than opponents.
—In its wins this season, UE holds an average +4.3 rebounding edge. The Aces are -12.5 in their losses.
UE coach Marty Simmons on the locker room post-Wichita State: “Our guys know when they’ve played really well and when they’ve had a big win, and they get excited about it. I think as a coaching staff we like to share in those moments.”
Simmons said the Aces prepare for Drake the same as a ranked Wichita state: “That’s how you try to approach it. When you’re in a conference schedule, they’re all of equal importance, and in our league it doesn’t matter who you’re playing. On any given night you’ve got to be ready to play to have a chance. That’s always been our mindset, and we’ll continue to do it.”
UE senior Lewis Jones on the Aces’ preparation this week: “We pretty much do everything the same way. We can’t overlook any team because all the teams in the Valley are pretty good.”
Simmons on Drake’s 3-point shooting: “It’s obviously something we’ve got to contain. (Ben) Simons is as good as any shooter in the league. (Micah) Mason is shooting a high percentage. But they can all shoot it. (Joey) King is someone who reminds us of (Jake) Koch at Northern Iowa, so there’s got to be a balance. When you’re playing good teams, you’ve got to be able to contain penetration, contain 3-point shooting, but we’ve also got to play well in the post.”
UE senior Ned Cox adds to the Bulldogs’ offense: “From what we’ve seen on film, they like to push the ball a lot this year. We’re going to have to be locked in and try to contain the penetration.”
Simmons on UE’s turnovers in the final minute against Missouri State and Wichita State: “That’s not really end of game. We call those our dead ball press breakers. But yeah, we work against the press when teams have that in their package. We work against it both days prior to the contest.”
Outlook: Both UE and Drake are coming off their biggest wins this season, so who can keep the momentum going? On the road in MVC play, it would be another statement for the Aces to get a win and see their RPI standing continue to improve.