Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Recruiting.

The University of Evansville joined a handful of Division-I men’s basketball programs in the late recruiting push for high school forward Zach Hollywood. Hollywood, a 6-foot-9 senior from Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in Illinois, announced the offer on his Twitter page Sunday.

Hollywood averaged 18.7 points per game as a senior.

He was originally committed to James Madison, but reopened his recruitment when the Dukes went through a coaching change. American, Fairfield, Youngstown State and Ball State have also offered Hollywood scholarships, according to his Verbal Commits page.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Missouri Valley.


Grade the past season:

Through an outsider’s eyes, the worst won-loss record in school history (5-27) might be considered utter failure regardless of the circumstances. But credit goes to a roster of 10 freshmen, one sophomore and one injury-plagued senior that maintained a strong effort level through a brutally tough non-conference season and showed marked improvement during the Valley slate.

This was a rebuilding season in its purest form as new coach Brian Wardle showed remarkable patience teaching and keeping his team upbeat and together through all of the losing.

Who is a key player or two who returns next season with a bigger role on tap?

The five players who showed the most promise — guards Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye, Ronnie Suggs and Antoine Pittman and forwards Luuk van Bree and Donte Thomas — should all continue to have major roles next season. They were the Braves’ top five scorers this season, all averaging between eight and 10 points per game.

Who is a newcomer (or two) who needs to produce quickly?

Texas Tech transfer Alex Foster, a 6-8 forward/center, should provide necessary depth up front. Also, one or both of the two incoming freshmen point guards — Darrell Brown, Jr. and Jayden Hodgson — have to bring consistent playmaking skill to a squad severely in need of it. Bradley’s turnover rate of over 17 per game has to be reined in for improvement to occur. With two open scholarships this spring, junior college forwards have been targeted. A pair of incoming freshmen — guard Nate Kennell and center Koch Bar — can be brought along more slowly.

How does the non-conference schedule look?

Still some work to do, but so far it’s not nearly as challenging as the all-road Arizona/Virginia/Seton Hall/Towson/Delaware/Texas-Arlington/Boise State death march along with home games vs. Ole Miss and TCU sprinkled in that the baby Braves endured last season.

Road trips to Ole Miss and TCU and home games against Nevada and Delaware are currently contracted with a neutral-court tournament in the process.

– Dave Reynolds, Peoria Journal Star


Grade the past season:

D: That may actually seem high, considering Drake finished 7-24, 2-16 in the Valley. But the team never stopped hustling. The Bulldogs snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating Loyola in their home finale, and narrowly lost to Missouri State at the Valley tournament.

It seemed they suffered a serious lack of confidence after a promising 4-3 start in November. They became beaten down, and didn’t have the sort of athleticism that could result in quick/easier scores. That contributed to Drake ranking 293rd offensively with 67.5 points per game (out of 351 NCAA Division I programs).

Who is a key player or two who returns next season with a bigger role on tap?

With the departure of Dominik Olejniczak, which was announced this week, Drake needs to develop depth in the post with 7-foot senior-to-be Jacob Enevold Jensen (who was replaced in the starting lineup by Olejniczak), 6-11 Kory Kuenstling and 6-10 Casey Schlatter. Olejniczak averaged 10.3 points over his last nine games and made 72.2 percent of his shots on the season (83 of 115). So his leaving is a serious blow. But the Bulldogs have talented players on the perimeter with guards Reed Timmer, Ore Arogundade and C.J. Rivers.

Who is a newcomer (or two) who needs to produce quickly?

De’Antae McMurray, a point guard from Southwestern Illinois College, will compete for playing time in 2016-17. The 6-foot-1 McMurray could give the Bulldogs a true distributor of the ball. He drew interest from Loyola, Eastern Illinois and Tulsa, while averaged 12 points and seven assists this past season.

How does the non-conference schedule look?

The Bulldogs will play Iowa State in the annual Big Four Classic in Des Moines, and they’ll be part of the Great Alaska Shootout. Drake is also set to play Fresno, which went 25-10 this season, as part of the MVC/MWC challenge. So there won’t be a lot of easy dates in November and December.

– Andrew Logue, Des Moines Register


Grade the past season:

B-minus. It’s a seemingly harsh grade for a team that finished 25-9, won its most games since the 1988-89 season and advanced to the MVC championship game for the first time since 1998-99.

But the reason it’s a B-minus is how the season ended – without a bid to the NCAA Tournament or the NIT. The players and fans were predictably devastated with that result because this season was seen as the Aces’ best chance in a long time to play in a major postseason tournament (they haven’t been to either the NCAA Tournament or the NIT since 1999).

The fact that the school’s all-time leading scorer (D.J. Balentine) and all-time leading rebounder and shot-blocker (Egidijus Mockevicius) never got to showcase their talents in even the NIT was a huge disappointment for the program.

Who is a key player or two who returns next season with a bigger role on tap?

Point guard Jaylon Brown will be the top returning scorer and was one of the most improved players in the MVC this year. It will be interesting to see how he continues to develop, and how the Aces deal with the return of fellow point guard Duane Gibson. As freshmen and sophomores, Gibson and Brown split minutes at the point guard spot, but Brown took his game to the next level when Gibson missed this season with a knee injury.

I don’t see how Brown could go back to playing 20 minutes per game after the season he had, so the Aces will either have to cut Gibson’s minutes or play Brown at the ‘2’ spot for stretches.

Other key returners for the Aces are front-line players David Howard and Willie Wiley. They’ve only played spot minutes behind Mockevicius but someone will need to emerge as a serviceable inside player in place of the All-MVC center. The Aces are looking at some big men with their remaining scholarships.

Who is a newcomer (or two) who needs to produce quickly?

I expect Ohio transfer Ryan Taylor to be a double-digit scorer next year. He’s 6-foot-5 with long arms and shooting ability and is arguably the team’s most explosive athlete. If the Aces continue to build their offense around a primary scorer like Colt Ryan or Balentine, Taylor could assume that role next season.

He averaged 8.2 points per game as a freshman at Ohio while starting 28 games.

How does the non-conference schedule look?

The Aces typically release their schedule later than most MVC teams, so not much is known at this point. They’ll play in the Challenge in Music City, a Nashville tournament that features mostly mid-major programs. Boise State will visit as part of the Missouri Valley-Mountain West Challenge Series.

I know UE is trying to extend series with Belmont and Murray State, and is considering playing a buy game against a Power-5 opponent, which isn’t always a staple at UE. I’ll be interested to see how many SWAC and MEAC schools are on the schedule after the Aces got burned by a poor non-conference schedule in 2015-16.

— Daniel Allar, Evansville Courier & Press

Illinois State

Grade the past season:

I would give it a C+.

Dan Muller scheduled very ambitiously with the thought of Reggie Lynch being in his lineup. When Lynch bolted last spring and transferred to Minnesota, the Redbirds were forced to retool offensively and defensively. Plus, the tragic death of associate coach Torrey Ward was something that definitely impacted the players emotionally. ISU struggled for the first 2½ months of the season figuring things out.

When February hit, the Redbirds suddenly clicked. They won nine of their last 12 MVC games and seemed to have a good chance in St. Louis.

When the Redbirds played their worst game in three months against Indiana State in the MVC tourney quarterfinals, it left a bad taste in mouths of coaches, players and fans. While 18-14 overall and 12-6 in the MVC isn’t all bad, this team seemed to have so much more potential and left a lot on the table.

Who is a key player or two who returns next season with a bigger role on tap?

The first name that pops to mind is MiKyle McIntosh. When locked in, McIntosh might be one of the most difficult matchups in the Valley. He’s 6-7, 235 pounds and can put in on the floor while also having a good touch on the perimeter. Not many guys around like that.

McIntosh scored 20 or more points in four Valley games. While his foul troubles weren’t as bad as his freshman year, McIntosh still has a tendency to pick up cheap fouls which sends him to the bench for extended periods. ISU can’t afford that in his last two years.

Paris Lee will be back for his fourth season as ISU’s point guard. Lee had some struggles this season, but also flashes where he was one of the best point guards in the league. He must become more consistent as a senior for the Redbirds to challenge for the league title.

Who is a newcomer (or two) who needs to produce quickly?

They might not be on the roster at present. ISU needs to bring in a wing player and big, either JCs or fifth-year transfers, who will immediately be put in the rotation. Freshman David Ndiaye, a 7-footer, was limited to 12 games because of a stress fracture. If he can stay healthy, that would be a major addition to a team which really didn’t have a true 5 man all season.

How does the non-conference schedule look?

Pretty solid. ISU will have home games against Saint Joseph’s, New Mexico (MWC-MVC Challenge) and UIC, plus a trip to the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii on Dec. 22-25 which includes San Diego State, San Francisco, Southern Mississippi, Stephen F. Austin, Tulsa, Utah and tournament-host Hawai’i. Muller probably will skip a guarantee game this season like he did against Kentucky in November. ISU is looking for another home-and-home series, probably starting on the road.

— Jim Benson, The Pantagraph

Indiana State

Grade the past season:

Indiana State was picked sixth and finished sixth. The manner in which it got there was cause for concern. Early contention followed by poor play in February. Sycamores get a C. Can’t grade less for meeting expectation, can’t grade more for how modest that expectation was to begin with.

Who is a key player or two who returns next season with a bigger role on tap?

Brenton Scott is obviously the best-known product and the only player on the first or second All-MVC team to return. He was magic in the first half of MVC play, but needs to broaden his game, as once teams keyed on him, he faded.

Brandon Murphy’s development will be interesting. He wasn’t supposed to be a starter in 2016 — T.J. Bell’s season-killing injury saw to that — but he showed signs of quality and he’s a matchup problem for many teams. ISU will have frontcourt depth next year, a trait few MVC teams will share. Murphy will have more of a defined role and it should serve him well.

Who is a newcomer (or two) who needs to produce quickly?

Bronson Kessinger, who sat out his freshman season with a broken leg and a wrist injury suffered in a nasty takeout on a dunk during his senior year of high school, would have been a big contributor in 2016 if healthy. He will be counted on to be so in 2017 and could be an immediate starter. Once he gained his mobility midway through the 2016 season, he began to show flashes of real talent. He’ll be a 3 or 4 and can spread the floor.

Incoming freshman Jordan Barnes is finally a point guard ISU can plan around after two years of compromises at that position in the wake of Jake Odum’s exit and Bryant McIntosh’s de-commitment and subsequent (successful) commitment to Northwestern. It will be interesting to see what Barnes’ role will be next year. If he’s a quick study, he will make ISU’s offense much better than its been.

How does the non-conference schedule look?

The Sycamores are walking into a buzzsaw with its MTE tournament. Indiana State plays in the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando, Fla. The field? Florida, Miami, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Seton Hall, Stanford and Quinnipiac. That is far and away the most rugged field ISU has faced in one of these tournaments. Just playing in this field should help ISU’s RPI. If it wins a game or two, it could be massive.

The rest? Butler visits Hulman Center to conclude a 2-for-1, a rare two where the pair was at Hulman Center. ISU plays at Utah State in the Mountain West/MVC Challenge.

There’s the mix of the traditional in-state/nearby mid-major foes (Valparaiso, Ball State, Eastern Illinois). Western Kentucky visits Hulman Center and so will a likely Division II team. ISU might do a buy game, but given its schedule, it might not have to.

– Todd Golden, Terre Haute Tribune-Star


Grade the past season:

I would give Loyola a C. The Ramblers were supposed to finish in the top half of the Valley and contend for a NIT bid. Instead, they finished 8th in the conference with an overall record below .500.

A strong finish to the regular season plus a good showing at Arch Madness allowed this team to hang on to a passing grade in my eyes.

Who is a key player or two who returns next season with a bigger role on tap?

Milton Doyle was preseason All-MVC honorable mention but had an underwhelming season despite averaging 11.2 points and 3.0 assists per game. With three guards graduating, Loyola needs Doyle to perform at his highest level in order to be successful next season. He showed flashes of dominance this past season but rarely put together a dominant 40 minutes as he did often during his sophomore and freshman seasons.

Again, with three guards graduating, Loyola will need returning members of the backcourt to step up. Ben Richardson was a glue guy for Loyola last season and is in a prime spot to become a more crucial part of the team’s game plan. Richardson emerged as a terrific defender and hustle player and was also one of the Valley’s top 3-point shooters. The Ramblers will need all of this in higher quantities next season.

Who is a newcomer (or two) who needs to produce quickly?

Treyvon Andres. The recent commit for Loyola is 6-foot-8 and put up big numbers at Trinidad State (Colo.) Junior College. The Ramblers were already extremely thin in the front court, and forward Montel James, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, is graduating. Andres will have an opportunity to make an immediate impact.

How does the non-conference schedule look?

Not a whole lot to report here. Loyola will play in the Paradise Jam, joining a field that includes NC State, Saint Joseph’s, Ole Miss and former Valley member Creighton. The Ramblers will also host San Diego State in MVC-MW Challenge.

— Jesse Kramer,

Missouri State

Grade the past season:

I’d give them a C+. That’s a high grade for a team that ended up in the play-in round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. But the team was significantly more competitive throughout the season and had wins over Northern Iowa and Illinois State. The development of the young players gives something this program hasn’t had in a while – hope for the future.

Who is a key player or two who returns next season with a bigger role on tap?

Obediah Church will have to take a much bigger role in the frontcourt. As a freshman, he was an intimidating defensive presence and helped out in rebounding, but his offensive game will have to be more than the alley-oop specialist he was this past season. With Cam Boone gone, the team will need Church to be an offensive threat who can hit jumpers from 15 feet and in.

Who is a newcomer (or two) who needs to produce quickly?

The marquee recruit is Greg “Boogie” Williams, who is a 6-foot-6 point guard out of Virginia. He was recruited by some Power 5 Conference schools before health issues scared some teams off. He should see major minutes from Day One. His ability to be an effective replacement for Dorrian Williams, both as an offensive threat and as a tall, lengthy defender on the perimeter, will decide how successful this team is.

How does the non-conference schedule look?

Bears will play in the Las Vegas Classic before Christmas, in a field that includes USC, Wyoming, DePaul, Southeast Missouri State, Detroit, Chicago State and Cornell. Schedule also should include home games against Valparaiso and Oral Roberts, and a trip to Air Force for the Missouri Valley Conference/Mountain West Challenge. Beyond that, it is up in the air.

— Jim Connell, Springfield News-Leader

Northern Iowa

Grade the past season:

With the way, this season went, you could hand out about four different grades, depending on what part of UNI’s season was being evaluated.

Overall, I’d give it a B-plus. The wins over North Carolina and Iowa State were significant, but so was the 2-6 start to the MVC season. UNI’s run to the MVC tournament championship and the win over Texas lifts the grade up, as would the first 39 minutes and 16 seconds of the A&M game. An “A” was within reach in regulation time. But it’s hard to ignore that historic meltdown.

Who is a key player or two who returns next season with a bigger role on tap?

Jeremy Morgan is the lone senior returning, so he’s the only real candidate to assume the leadership void left by the departure of Bohannon, Jesperson and Washpun.

Klint Carlson took some huge steps forward over the second half of the season, and Ben Jacobson’s thoughts about Carlson’s junior year are pretty simple: Keep going. And Jacobson said Wyatt Lohaus could continue to see action at point guard next season.

Who is a newcomer (or two) who needs to produce quickly?

The obvious choice is Juwan McCloud, a 5-11 recruit out of Wisconsin. He’ll be the only true point guard on the roster as it stands now. Another possibility is Spencer Haldeman, an Iowa native who redshirted in 2015-16. But he is more of a combo guard.

How does the non-conference schedule look?

The highlights would be the early-season tournament to Puerto Rico, the return game at North Carolina and Iowa in the Big Four Classic (Des Moines).

— Jim Sullivan, Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

Grade the past season:

A. Given how the season ended for the Panthers, it’d be easy to think this was a sympathy grade, but I went this way for a few reasons: One, UNI got wins this season that Missouri Valley teams have gotten only a few times in its history, and did so at both the beginning and end. Two, UNI found its way out of that mid-season funk.

On Feb 1, it looked like UNI’s grade was headed for a D, but the Panthers deserve credit for coming out of it stronger and finishing at their strongest. Three, the NCAA Tournament was just about a dream scenario – for roughly 79:30, that is. Those final seconds don’t take anything away.

Who is a key player or two who returns next season with a bigger role on tap?

Has to be Jeremy Morgan. He should be considered for preseason Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year going in, and did something against Texas A&M that was historic. His 36 points and 12 rebounds are matched only by Larry Bird for a Valley player in the NCAA Tournament. Not bad company. He’ll be the unquestioned leader of UNI as the only senior. He’ll be joined by Klint Carlson, Bennett Koch and Wyatt Lohaus as players who will carry the banner – and all with considerable experience by this point.

Who is a newcomer (or two) who needs to produce quickly?

Both Juwan McCloud and Tanner Lohaus will probably play as true freshmen, and UNI will need McCloud in the backcourt with Wes Washpun’s departure. Spencer Haldeman will provide the shooter’s role vacated by Matt Bohannon, and Justin Dahl is the bruising rebounder UNI lacked this year. I know that’s more than one or two, but it’ll be a collective effort with what the Panthers lost.

How does the non-conference schedule look?

It won’t be as formidable as this year’s was, that’s for sure. Like many other teams at this point, there’s no schedule for 2016-17 just yet, so there’s not a ton to go off.

The Panthers do have Wyoming in the MVC-MWC Challenge, which will be a rematch of their NCAA Tournament matchup from 2014-15. Ben Jacobson has already told us he won’t schedule as tough or as many in a row on the road for next season, so we can expect a better mix of home and away in the non-conference.

— Jeremiah Davis, Cedar Rapids Gazette

Southern Illinois

Grade the past season:

I’d give Southern Illinois’ men’s basketball team a B for the 2015-16 season. With six new guys in the rotation, expectations were for a winning season and a move up but nothing close to 22 victories. Anthony Beane had a great senior season and finished third all-time in scoring in school history. SIU’s offense averaged nearly 20 points more than last season.

Not playing in any postseason was a disappointment and a cruel halt to any momentum the team earned in the regular season.

Who is a key player or two who returns next season with a bigger role on tap?

Leo Vincent, who will be a senior, will likely move up into a starting role and have to produce a bit more to make up for the loss of Beane. Tyler Smithpeters must be more consistent and improve his defense, and point guard Mike Rodriguez may have to pick up some of the scoring slack, as well, on a nightly basis. SIU recruited one freshman point guard for the 2016-17 season and another wing.

Who is a newcomer (or two) who needs to produce quickly?

Aaron Cook, a recruited point guard from Westminster Academy in St. Louis, comes from a small school but will likely have to play a lot of minutes as a true freshman. He will likely back up Rodriguez, who had 94 assists but struggled in MVC play. Forward Brendon Gooch, a pretty good-sized wing at 6-6, 185, will probably play on the perimeter like another Armon Fletcher but will have to produce if SIU is to compete for a league title.

How does the non-conference schedule look?

Very, very empty. SIU has Sam Houston State and Saint Louis at home, as well as Murray State at home and SIU-Edwardsville on the road. That’s it. The Salukis are pursuing a big tournament, according to coach Barry Hinson, which will improve the team’s schedule strength, as well as a guarantee game against a Power 5 conference. SIU will play a non-Division I opponent as part of the said multi-team event (MTE). I’m not sure if Southeast Missouri State is on the schedule again or not.

– Todd Hefferman, The Southern Illinoisan

Wichita State

Grade the past season:

A-. The Shockers won two NCAA Tournament games and the MVC regular-season title. While they considered a Final Four realistic, falling to a No. 11 seed and the First Four made that path difficult.

While Wichita State didn’t meet all expectations (including another flop in St. Louis), it’s hard to knock too many points off a season that included an NCAA at-large bid and convincing tournament wins over Vanderbilt and Arizona.

Who is a key player or two who returns next season with a bigger role on tap?

Landry Shamet played in 59 minutes over three games this season before an injury sidelined him. With point guard a question, Shamet may develop into the best option. He is regarded as a smart, mature player with above-average physical gifts.

Sophomore guard Conner Frankamp is in much the same position after coming off the bench in 28 games. He showed flashes of offense, rarely turned the ball over and improved his defense. With two experienced guards ahead of him, however, he showed little ability to run the team.

Who is a newcomer (or two) who needs to produce quickly?

Forward Darral Willis is Wichita State’s best hope to juice up the offense in the front court. He averaged 18.4 points and made 59 percent of his shots in junior college. Transfer Daishon Smith, a speedy guard, is an option at point, if he can learn WSU’s system and channel his wheels in the right direction.

How does the non-conference schedule look?

A bit overwhelming for a roster that no longer includes Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. The Shockers play in the Battle 4 Atlantis with a field that includes Michigan State, Louisville, Baylor, LSU, VCU, Saint John’s and Old Dominion. WSU plays Oklahoma in Oklahoma City and at Colorado State. Tulsa, Saint Louis and South Dakota State visit Koch Arena.

– Paul Suellentrop, The Wichita Eagle

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Missouri Valley.

University of Evansville center Egidijus Mockevicius will join forces with Missouri Valley Conference rivals Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet on Friday at the Reese’s College All-Star Game at NRG Stadium in Houston.

The first-team all-MVC performers will represent the West team in the contest, which features 20 of the top seniors in NCAA Division I. The game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. CDT Friday and a delayed broadcast will air on CBS Saturday at noon.

Mockevicius will be coached by 14-year NBA veteran John Lucas, who has coached three NBA teams. Professional scouts will attend practices and the all-star game.

The 6-foot-10 Mockevicius averaged 15.7 points and a Division-I leading 14.0 rebounds per game this season. He leaves Evansville as the school’s all-time leader in rebounding and blocked shots.

Led by another former NBA coach — Doug Collins — the East roster includes: guards D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown), James Robinson (Pittsburgh), Kellen Dunham (Butler), David Walker (Northeastern) and Louisville teammates Trey Lewis and Damion Lee; forwards Justin Sears (Yale) and Anthony Gill (Virginia); and centers Shevon Thompson (George Mason) and Nathan Boothe (Toledo).

Joining Mockevicius, Baker and VanVleet on the West squad: guards Trey Freeman (Old Dominion), Jaysean Paige (West Virginia), Thomas Walkup (Stephen F. Austin) and Texas A&M teammates Danuel House and Jalen Jones; and forwards Joel Bolomboy (Weber State) and Matt Costello (Michigan State).



Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Recruiting.

The University of Evansville men’s basketball program has offered a scholarship to LeRoy (Illinois) High School senior forward Matt Chastain, according to a tweet from Chastain’s AAU coach.

The 6-foot-6 Chastain averaged 26 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals in leading LeRoy to the Class A state championship. He holds more than 10 Division I scholarship offers, including ones from Evansville’s Missouri Valley Conference rivals Loyola, Illinois State and Indiana State.

UE currently has two scholarships available for the 2016 recruiting class.


Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Three updated National Invitation Tournament projections have the University of Evansville in the men’s basketball field but in a precarious position.

The Aces (25-9) haven’t been to the NCAA tournament or the second-tier NIT since 1999.

The NIT Bracket Project lists UE as a No. 7 seed in the 32-team tournament, playing Monmouth in the first round. ranks Evansville as the last No. 6 seed, while Big Apple Buckets has the Aces as a No. 6 seed playing Hofstra.

Big Apple Buckets’ pegs UE as a “bubble team” because there are still 20 conference tournaments to be decided. Regular-season conference champions who don’t secure an NCAA bid automatically qualify for the NIT, which would bump at-large teams near the bottom of the NIT bracket out of the field.

In other words, the Aces are rooting for No. 1 seeds from one-bid NCAA tournament leagues to win their conference tournaments and save NIT positions for at-large squads.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball, Recruiting.

The Evansville men’s basketball program offered a scholarship Tuesday to Lake Forest (Illinois) High School senior Lorenzo Edwards, according to his high school team’s Twitter account.

Edwards, a 6-foot-7 power forward, averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game in leading the Scouts to an 18-10 record. He has more than a half-dozen scholarship offers, according to the LFHS boys basketball Twitter account.

St. Joseph’s has also offered Edwards, per his Verbal Commits page.

Evansville currently has two open scholarships for next season. The Aces are set to lose three seniors and the only 2016 signee is Reitz High School guard Dru Smith.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

ST. LOUIS — Klint Carlson scored 13 points and Northern Iowa held Evansville to 23.1 percent shooting to take a 32-18 halftime lead in the Missouri Valley Conference championship game Sunday at Scottrade Center.

The Aces went nearly eight minutes without a field goal in the first half. During that time, UNI went on a 16-1 run.

Northern Iowa used the same strategy that held UE to a 16-point first half on Feb. 27 — the Aces’ lowest-scoring half of the season. The Panthers packed the lane on Evansville stars Egidijus Mockevicius and D.J. Balentine and forced the Aces to go to the perimeter.

Evansville responded by going 6 for 26 from the field and 2 of 9 from 3-point range.

Blake Simmons hit both of Evansville’s 3s and scored a team-high six points. Balentine and Mockevicius chipped in five apiece.

Point guard Wes Washpun had nine points, four rebounds and two steals for UNI.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Basic info: Evansville (25-8) vs. Northern Iowa (21-12), MVC tournament championship, 1 p.m. Sunday at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

How they got here: Evansville beat Missouri State 66-56 and Indiana State 68-42; Northern Iowa beat Southern Illinois 66-60 and Wichita State 57-52 in overtime.

Previous meetings: UNI swept the season series, winning 57-54 in Cedar Falls and 54-52 in Evansville.

TV/Radio: CBS; WUEV 91.5 FM



Evansville: Jaylon Brown (6-0, Jr., G, 10.5 ppg, 2.9 apg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Sr., G, 20.5 ppg, 4.3 apg); Blake Simmons (6-5, Jr., G/F, 5.9 ppg, 3.0 apg); Adam Wing (6-4, Sr., 7.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg); Egidijus Mockevicius (6-10, Sr., C, 16.0 ppg, 13.8 rpg).

Northern Iowa: Paul Jesperson (6-6, Sr., G, 10.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg); Matt Bohannon (6-4, Sr., G, 12.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg); Wes Washpun (6-1, Sr., G, 14.2 ppg, 5.3 apg); Jeremy Morgan (6-5, Jr., G/F, 10.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg); Bennett Koch (6-9, So., F, 7.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg).

— —


1. Can Evansville establish Mockevicius?

Northern Iowa packed the defense inside on UE’s senior center in the teams’ last meeting, and Mockevicius only received two post touches in the first half. He scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half and also posted 16 rebounds, so it turned out to be a decent performance. But Evansville would be better off seeing what he can do with two halves of involvement in the offense.

A secondary key here is whether Mockevicius can stay out of foul trouble for the first time in the conference tournament. The Panthers, especially Wes Washpun, will attack him on drives and look to draw fouls.

2. Will UE get balanced scoring?

In most of their loses this season, the Aces have only gotten offense from two or three players. Conversely, when all five starters scored in the first 4:30 against Indiana State on Friday, it was obvious the Aces were in for a good night.

Jaylon Brown and Mislav Brzoja are the keys for Evansville as secondary play-makers behind D.J. Balentine. Brown will also get the tough defensive assignment on Washpun.

3. Can UNI catch fire from deep?

Northern Iowa is comfortable playing grinding, physical games — as evidenced by its pair of wins over UE with scores in the 50s. The only way I see the Panthers reaching 65-plus points is if their 3-point shooting — which has been lukewarm in this tournament so far — comes around.

Matt Bohannon (91 3s, 41.4 percent), Paul Jesperson (75 3s, 39.7 percent) can hit them in bunches, and Washpun, Jeremy Morgan and Klint Carlson can knock down outside shots occasionally, too. That allows the Panthers to play four or five guys at all times who can hit the 3.

Notes: UNI has won 11 of 12 games. … The Panthers have captured four MVC tournament titles since joining the league in 1991-92 (2004, 2009, 2010 and 2015). … Evansville has never won an MVC tournament since joining the league in 1994. UE made the final once, in 1999. … UE is tied with the 1988-89 team for the most wins since the school moved to NCAA Division I in 1977.

Predictions: Northern Iowa is favored by one point. Ken Pomeroy predicts a 64-63 Evansville win and gives the Aces a 51 percent chance of victory.


Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Blake Simmons

“It’s still hard for us to wrap our minds around that (Sunday) we’re playing for a chance to make it to the NCAA tournament. This is something that I know me and D.J. and the rest of the guys have dreamed about since we were kids. Having the opportunity tomorrow, it’s a lifelong dream we’ve had. We’re excited for it. We can’t wait.”

“Every time you play well it feels good, but you’ve got to give credit to your teammates, especially (Balentine). He draws more attention than any other player in the country. Being able to see through double teams, see through guys jumping to the ball, being able to pass it out. He also gives me a lot of confidence out there.”

— —

D.J. Balentine

“My teammates did a great job of setting screens and allowing me to get the ball in positions to score. Scoring was really balanced today and that helped a lot.”

On Northern Iowa guard Matt Bohannon’s prophetic prediction on Evansville’s Senior Day: “Matt Bohannon told me after our game that he beat us in, ‘I would say this is the last time we played you, but we both know I’ll see you Sunday (in St. Louis).’ As he was walking off the floor (Saturday), he told me, ‘I told you I’ll see you Sunday.’”

— —

Marty Simmons

On attacking Indiana State’s defense: “The biggest key for us was we were able to get some stops and get out in transition. A lot of times on makes they do a great job of getting set, getting locked in on you, but I thought we had some good rhythm.”

On the matchup with Northern Iowa: “We’ll have to go back and study it. A lot of teams have a hard time scoring against Northern Iowa. They’re just really good. They’re fundamentally sound, they’ve got smart, tough, competitive guys, they’ve got athletic guys. They know their system and they buy into it. One area is we’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball.”

— —

David Howard

“Every game I just try to make one or two plays to help the team. That’s my goal. Today I stepped up and I was glad I was able to help the team out.”

“We’re all excited (about Sunday), we’re all ready to go. We’ve been dreaming about this moment since we were kids. It’s going to be a tough one. They beat us twice. It’s going to be a slugfest. They play real good defense, so we’re going to have to bring it, for sure.”

— —

Egidijus Mockevicius

“I’m just so glad for the team. I’m so happy. I couldn’t care less about minutes right now. I’m just so glad we stepped off the court as winners tonight. We’ve got to be ready for tomorrow.”

“It will come down to execution and who wants it more. We’re going to give it our best shot. We lost to them twice; we don’t want it to happen again, so we’re going to bring our ‘A’ game.”

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

ST. LOUIS — D.J. Balentine scored 10 points to lead a balanced effort as the University of Evansville took a 37-22 halftime lead over Indiana State on Saturday in a Missouri Valley Conference tournament semifinal at Scottrade Center.

Every Aces starter scored in the first 4:30 of the game and UE buried 5 of 10 3-point attempts in the half. Evansville shot 13 of 28 (46.4 percent) from the field, compared to Indiana State’s 7 of 25.

Evansville took a 5-0 lead and never trailed. Devonte Brown had 10 points for ISU but no other Sycamore scored more than three.

There were no scoring runs larger than 5-0 in the half for UE, but the Aces steadily built the lead. Jaylon Brown had seven points, three assists and two steals with no turnovers, and Blake Simmons added eight points with a pair of 3-pointers.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

Basic info: Evansville vs. Indiana State, MVC tournament semifinal, approximately 5 p.m. Saturday at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

How they got here: Indiana State beat Illinois State 65-57 in the quarterfinals; Evansville beat Missouri State 66-56

Previous meetings: UE won 70-62 in Evansville Dec. 30; ISU won 82-65 in Terre Haute Jan. 24.

TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network; WUEV 91.5 FM



Evansville: Jaylon Brown (6-0, Jr., G, 10.5 ppg, 2.8 apg); D.J. Balentine (6-2, Sr., G, 20.7 ppg, 4.4 apg); Blake Simmons (6-5, Jr., G/F, 5.8 ppg, 3.0 apg); Adam Wing (6-4, Sr., F, 7.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg); Egidijus Mockevicius (6-10, Sr., C, 16.6 ppg, 14.0 rpg).

Indiana State: Brenton Scott (6-1, So., G, 14.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg); Devonte Brown (6-2, Sr., G, 15.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg); Khristian Smith (6-6, Sr., G/F, 10.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg); Niels Bunschoten (6-9, Jr., F, 4.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg); Brandon Murphy (6-7, So., C, 4.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg).

— —

Noting Evansville: Head coach Marty Simmons picked up his 150th win at Evansville on Friday night. He is now 150-142 in his ninth season at UE and 248-215 in his 15th season overall as a college head coach. … The Aces are in their third MVC semifinal and first since 2012. If they win Saturday, they’ll be in their second final (the other was 1999). … Egidijus Mockevicius has 10 consecutive double-doubles and leads NCAA Division I in rebounding at 14.1 per game. His 18 rebounds Friday were the most in UE’s MVC tournament history. … D.J. Balentine (21 points), Adam Wing (13), Mockevicius (12) and Jaylon Brown (11) all reached double figures in scoring Friday, the first time UE has had four scorers in double digits since a Feb. 20 win over Southern Illinois.

Noting Indiana State: ISU is 8-4 under sixth-year head coach Greg Lansing at the MVC tournament. Four of those wins came as the lower-seeded team. … ISU is 74-9 under Lansing when holding opponents to 63 points or less. … The Sycamores held Illinois State to 20 of 64 shooting from the field (31.3 percent) in Friday’s quarterfinal win. … Guards Devonte Brown and Brenton Scott made the all-MVC second team. Both ranked in the top five in scoring in MVC games (Brown 16.9, Scott 15.8). … Brown ranks seventh nationally in free-throw attempts (253) and 10th in makes (192).

Predictions: Evansville is favored by 7 1/2 points. Ken Pomeroy predicts a 73-67 win and gives the Aces a 71 percent chance of victory.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

ST. LOUIS — Evansville weathered a 5-minute, 18-second scoring drought at the end of the half to take a 29-25 lead over Missouri State in a Missouri Valley Conference tournament quarterfinal at Scottrade Center.

UE guard D.J. Balentine had five points and an assist during a seven-point spurt that saw Evansville take a 27-17 lead. But the Aces made just one of their final 15 shots from the field and missed their last nine.

Balentine had nine points to lead UE, which shot 13 of 33 (39.4 percent) overall. Senior center Egidijus Mockevicius added eight points and 11 rebounds but missed six field-goal attempts near the rim.

Camyn Boone led the Bears with 13 points on 6 of 11 shooting.