Evansville Aces (12-8, 5-3) at Illinois State Redbirds (11-9, 2-6)
Missouri Valley Conference Game 9/18
Game Time: 7 p.m. Saturday
Location: Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill.
Broadcast: WUEV 91.5 FM, Fox Sports Plus
Live Coverage: Follow on Twitter (@ECP_Lintner)
Spread: Illinois State -6.5 at Vegas Insider
UE’s Probable Starters: G Troy Taylor, G Ned Cox, F Colt Ryan, F Lewis Jones, C Egidijus Mockevicius
Illinois State’s Probable Starters: G Bryant Allen, G Johnny Hill, G Tyler Brown, G/F John Wilkins, F Jackie Carmichael
Last Meeting: UE beat Illinois State 79-71 at the Ford Center on Jan. 21, 2012.
Series History: The Redbirds are 29-16 all-time against the Aces and have won 17 of 20 meetings on their home court. UE last won in Redbird Arena in January of 2011.
Jan. 26: Focus on defense has Illinois State shooting for another win
Jan. 25: Mockevicius starting to become a force inside
Jan. 23: Aces surge past Bradley behind late 3-pointers
Jan. 23: Despite not making 3-pointer, Illinois State beats Indiana State
—After passing Ed Smallwood for third on UE’s all-time scoring list, senior Colt Ryan is now 97 points from becoming just the third player in Aces history to hit 2,000 points. Ryan is averaging 21.9 points since a Dec. 22 game at Butler.
—Freshman Egidijus Mockevicius’ 10-rebound effort against Bradley marked a career high. Nine of those came in the second half and five on the offensive glass. Mockevicius is averaging 19-plus minutes a game in MVC play as compared to 15 in non-conference games.
—UE has gone from a team that made better than 43 percent of its 3-pointers early in the season to one that’s shooting just 30.3 percent from beyond the arc in MVC play. The Aces hit both their 3s — from freshman Adam Wing and Ryan — in the final 10 minutes of the Bradley win.
—Illinois State, which started MVC play 0-6, lost those games by an average seven points and came on within the last week to beat both Southern Illinois and Indiana State.
—The Redbirds are 35th in the country in field goal percentage at 46.6 percent and even better on shots inside the arc, where they connect on 53.9 percent of attempts. Illinois State is also 22nd nationally in assists with 16 a game.
—Senior forward Jackie Carmichael averages 17.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per game to lead Illinois State. Carmichael ranks 12th among the NCAA’s active players in double-doubles with 29 of them and has recorded one in seven of the Redbirds’ last 10 games.
—After missing Illinois State’s Jan. 12 loss to Drake due to a suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, senior guard Tyler Brown came back to score 14 points against Wichita State and 22 against Southern Illinois. Brown, who averages 15.3 points, has scored as many as 36 this season in a November victory over Northwestern.
—Illinois State and UE coaches will join coaches around the country Saturday by wearing sneakers with their usual game day attire in support of the American Cancer Society’s Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers weekend.
UE coach Marty Simmons on Illinois State’s style under first-year coach Dan Muller: “They play fast. They’ll set some ball screens. They’re just a very tough team to defend with Carmichael, and along with him they sometimes put four shooters out there – for sure three guys who can make shots. They have athleticism with that. Brown can shoot from 25 feet, but he’s also really quick off the dribble.”
Simmons on Carmichael, the Redbirds’ leading scorer: “He’s a multidemsional kind of player. He’s not really your traditional post player. He runs the floor like (Creighton junior Doug) McDermott. He’s really good in transition. He can seal you down low, get position and score it. He’ll catch it off the block, which is a little difference. He’s a good passer, mobile, and athletic. I guess his mobility and versatility is different than a lot of players.”
Simmons on how he hopes UE freshman Egidijus Mockevicius defense Carmichael: “You’ve got to beat him down the floor in transition and try to play good position defense. He’s also going to have to get some help from his teammates. With him, no matter who he’s playing, we’ve got to get it so guys are having to score over him – not giving up angles. Don’t foul, and block him out.”
Simmons on UE’s road problems (losses last week at Drake and Indiana State in particular): “There’s no secret. We’ve identified our problems and continued to work on them. We’re better against Bradley, and we know we have to be better against Illinois State. I wish there was an antidote. It just comes with playing hard and not letting your intensity level drop when other teams’ intensity level goes up. It’s your ability to execute in a hostile environment when their fans are into it. It’s having the ability to execute and make plays in the heat of the battle, whether it’s at home or on the road.”
Outlook: If Vegas is any indication (it’s usually a good one), Illinois State is back in form after starting MVC play 0-6. The Redbirds have reeled off two straight, Tyler Brown is back from suspension and Jackie Carmichael is playing at the highest level. That’s why the Redbirds are favored 6.5 points, making this a game just as difficult on paper as any UE has played so far in conference.