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

We’ve decided to try something slightly different for University of Evansville basketball in-game updates.

At the very least I’ll post pregame notes, a halftime update and a quick game recap on this blog and then the full game story will show up later on our website and in the next day’s Courier & Press. I may post short updates during timeouts as well.

Please check back before the UE basketball doubleheader on Saturday (the women tip off at noon against Southern Indiana, while the men play Wabash at 3:05 p.m.) for pregame notes and follow along throughout the day for updates. I’ll also be live-tweeting the action from my @ECP_Allar account.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

The only player on the University of Evansville men’s basketball team who can’t play this season is already gaining some notice.

Then again, it’s easy for a 7-foot-1 man to turn heads.

Sergej Vucetic, the mountainous transfer from Nebraska, has recovered from strained ligaments in his right elbow to give the Aces another (huge) body in practice. In particular, his presence has helped 6-10 junior Egidijus Mockevicius learn to battle a rare larger player.

“I mean, he’s 7-1,” Mockevicius said. “We don’t have any guys in the league that are that tall, so of course he gives me confidence. But he also gives me something to think about because the shots I usually make do not work against him, so I need to figure another way out. … He basically is making me better.”

UE coach Marty Simmons said Vucetic is more than just a big body — but that fact is typically included in any description of the Serbian.

“He’s got great hands, is real smart, knows how to play,” Simmons said. “Obviously, he’s huge. He’s definitely a presence inside, not only to the guys that he’s guarding but on rotations.”

Vucetic will have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning next fall. Before that, he said he wants to work on footwork, boxing out and improving his defense. The Aces are also trying to put weight on the lanky 238-pounder.

“I’d like to see him get some extra work with some agility and foot speed, upper-body strength,” Simmons said. “His skill is unlimited. … With our terminology, he’s learning a little bit every day but he certainly has a great touch and the ability to stretch a little bit with the shooting range.”

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

The University of Evansville women’s basketball team played with seven players in its closed scrimmage Sunday at Southeast Missouri State, and will likely have that many available for Saturday’s exhibition game against Division II University of Southern Indiana.

Kat Taylor, a senior who started at point guard last season, tore her Achilles tendon this summer but is expected to return sometime this season. Senior guard Khristian Hart is day-to-day with a hamstring strain, while freshman forward Asia Petitte is recovering from an ankle injury.

UE coach Oties Epps said Taylor was told she wouldn’t play again this season — and was supposed to be in a protective boot until the end of January — but is well ahead of schedule. Taylor is already on a daily routine of running, defensive slides and shooting.

“I guess she was supposed to never play again, but that’s not gonna be the case,” Epps said. “She’ll be back playing. She’s so far advanced in terms of where she should be, so we’ll get her back at some point.”

For Saturday’s game against USI, Evansville’s lineup will look like this:

Point guard — Taloni Reese (5-8, Fr.); Shooting guard — Sara Dickey (5-11, So.); Small forward — Peyton Langston (6-0, Fr.); Power forward — Mallory Ladd (6-1, Sr.); Center — Sasha Robinson (6-1, So.); Bench — Kenyia Johnson (5-8, Fr.), Laura Friday (5-6, Jr.) and (possibly) Khristian Hart (5-8, Sr.).

While that leaves the Aces fairly thin, Epps was pleased with the way his seven players performed against Southeast Missouri State. Although he wasn’t allowed to report the score of the scrimmage, he said, “We walked away in terms of the score really liking the results.”

Epps was most pleased with the team’s defense in the scrimmage. He said the Aces kept up the defensive pressure for the entire 40 minutes despite their short bench.

And while the offensive execution was spotty, Epps said multiple players were able to improvise and make positive plays. Langston, in particular, stood out with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

“It was really hard for SEMO to find a way to guard her because she’s (6-foot), but yet she’s got guard skills,” Epps said. “When you had the post on her, she was driving her. Then you put the little guard on her, she would take them to the block. We have a lot going on that we’re pretty excited about. If we stay healthy – we’re gonna get some kids back pretty soon — we’re gonna be a team that you have to deal with in the Missouri Valley Conference.”

On Thursday, the Aces picked up a verbal commitment from Erin Sinnott, a 5-foot-11 senior forward from Oswego (Illinois) High School. Sinnott averaged 14 points and eight rebounds during her junior season.

Sinnott’s high school and AAU teammate, Jordan Campbell, is also a Class of 2015 commitment for the Aces along with Ohio guard Kerri Gasper.

For a full story on Sinnott’s commitment to Evansville, check our website on Friday evening or pick up a copy of Saturday’s newspaper.

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

The University of Evansville men’s basketball team was chosen fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll released last week, but where do the Aces stack up in other preseason projections?

Ken Pomeroy, who maintains a respected website that archives advanced statistics and projects results based on those numbers, slotted UE to finish sixth in the MVC and 159th nationally. Pomeroy projects the Aces to finish 15-13 overall and 8-10 in the Valley during the regular season. However, those projections are only for known opponents, so Evansville will actually play two more games against unknown teams at the Gulf Coast Showcase during Thanksgiving week.

The entire MVC’s preseason national rankings according to Pomeroy: Wichita State (10), Northern Iowa (70), Illinois State (109), Indiana State (132), Missouri State (143), Evansville (159), Loyola (170), Southern Illinois (171), Bradley (211) and Drake (229).

In Sports Illustrated’s online rankings — using another supposedly scientific model developed by economist Dan Hanner —  UE is projected as the 124th-best team in the nation and No. 4 in the MVC. Conference teams ranked ahead of UE are Wichita State (top 25 hasn’t been released yet), Northern Iowa (70) and Illinois State (86).

Hanner’s simulations list UE juniors Egidijus Mockevicius and D.J. Balentine among the country’s top rebounders and scorers, respectively, which I detailed in this blog post.

In an SBnation ranking of the nation’s top 100 players, Balentine is No. 97. Three other preseason all-MVC players made the list as well: Wichita State guards Fred VanVleet (6) and Ron Baker (19) and Northern Iowa forward Seth Tuttle (91). The reigning conference player of the year, VanVleet was named a preseason All-American on Monday by the Associated Press.

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

Plainfield High School sophomore forward Riley Blackwell picked up a scholarship offer this month from the University of Evansville women’s basketball program. Her AAU program, and others, tweeted the news:

Blackwell is listed in various places as 5-foot-11 or 6-foot.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

The University of Evansville men’s basketball team will compete in a major Thanksgiving week tournament in 2015.

Bloggingthebracket.com reported that the Aces will play in the Wooden Legacy, which features powerhouse programs Michigan State and Arizona. The Wooden Legacy will be played Nov. 26 and 27 in Fullerton, California, and Nov. 29 in Anaheim, California.

The entire 2015 tournament field — which was also reported on the San Jose State athletics website as part of a two-year ticket package — is listed below.

The Wooden Legacy Campus sites: TBA
Fullerton, CA: Nov. 26 and 27
Anaheim, CA: Nov. 29
Teams (8) Quarterfinalists
Arizona Wildcats (Pac-12)
Boise State Broncos (MW)
Boston College Eagles (ACC)
Evansville Aces (MVC)
Michigan State Spartans (Big Ten)
Providence Friars (Big East)
Santa Clara Broncos (WCC)
UC Irvine Anteaters (Big West)

In addition to providing the Aces with some strong nonconference matchups, the 2015 Wooden Legacy will give UE’s program television exposure via its ESPN broadcasts. All of the Wooden Legacy games this year will air on ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN3.

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

University of Evansville women’s basketball coach Oties Epps has continued to recruit the state of Indiana hard, recently offering a scholarship to a 6-foot-3 center in the Aces’ backyard.

Emily Sullivan, a junior at Memorial High School, tweeted earlier this month that the Aces were the first program to offer her a scholarship.

The Aces picked up a verbal commitment Oct. 7 from Macie Lively, a Class of 2016 point guard from Tipton (Indiana) High School.

Sullivan averaged 8.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game in her sophomore season at Memorial, according to Maxpreps.com. She starred in the Tigers’ upset of No. 1-ranked Princeton in the Class 3A Boonville Sectional, posting 14 points and 20 rebounds as Memorial won 41-26.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

University of Evansville juniors D.J. Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicius will be among college basketball’s top six in points and rebounds, respectively, this season, according to statistical projections from Sports Illustrated.

This SI.com article explains that economist Dan Hanner developed a model to project advanced statistics for every Division I player — and ultimately team records — by simulating the season 10,000 times, “accounting for fluctuations in individual performance and health.” Numerous other factors are cited in the article, and while projections are … well, projections, it still is interesting to see the results this scientific approach yielded.

Hanner’s model places Balentine fifth in the country in scoring at 19.4 points per game and Mockevicius sixth in rebounding at 8.7 boards per game.

That would actually be a decrease in scoring for Balentine from 22.8 points per game as a sophomore, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Balentine’s scoring dipped slightly this season. The Aces could elect to play more through Mockevicius in the post, and and newcomers Taylor Stafford and Mislav Brzoja — both capable outside scorers — could cut slightly into Balentine’s shot attempts.

Mockevicius led the Missouri Valley Conference at 8.3 rebounds per game last season, so SI’s projections see him making a slight improvement in that category.

Speaking of the MVC, Northern Iowa forward Seth Tuttle rated highly in Hanner’s model. Tuttle is projected as the nation’s No. 34 scorer (16.3 ppg), No. 13 rebounder (8.4 rpg) and No. 5 “efficient, high-usage scorer.”

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

In his recruiting notes published Tuesday night, the Indianapolis Star’s Kyle Neddenriep reported that Howe High School point guard Harris Brown will take an official visit to the University of Evansville this weekend.

The 5-foot-11 Brown previously committed to fellow Missouri Valley Conference member Loyola (Ill.) but later decommitted. According to his profile on verbalcommits.com, Brown also holds scholarship offers from Northern Illinois and New Orleans. He was an Indiana Junior All-Star last year.

This video, which is more than a year old, shows that Brown has good explosiveness and a solid shooting stroke.

The following highlights are more recent but less comprehensive (it appears only a couple of games were filmed for this video).

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

Christian Willis, a 6-foot-2 junior shooting guard from Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis, received a scholarship offer Friday from the University of Evansville men’s basketball program. Willis was on campus to take in the Aces’ first official practice for the 2014-15 season.

The Class of 2016 prospect announced the scholarship offer on Twitter Friday evening.

Willis averaged 10.8 points per game during his sophomore season. He also holds offers from Eastern Illinois, Arkansas State and San Jose State, according to his online recruiting profile at verbalcommits.com.

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

Macie Lively, a 5-foot-6 point guard from Tipton (Indiana) High School, gave a verbal commitment to the University of Evansville women’s basketball program Tuesday during a visit to campus.

The Class of 2016 prospect announced her decision via Twitter and posted a photo that included Aces head coach Oties Epps.

In August, the Aces became the first Division I program to offer Lively a scholarship.

Lively averaged 15.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game during her sophomore season at Tipton, which finished 18-5 and advanced to the Class 2A semistate.

Posted by & filed under Men's Basketball.

D.J. Balentine

D.J. Balentine

While compiling a 1,500-word feature on University of Evansville junior shooting guard D.J. Balentine this week, I gathered plenty of material. Some of it didn’t make the final story, but I thought I’d share the remaining tidbits here.

Check our sports website Saturday evening for my full story, or grab a copy of Sunday’s newspaper.

Some extra notes and quotes regarding Balentine, who led the Missouri Valley Conference with 22.8 points per game last season:

Balentine finished his prep career as the No. 3 career scorer at Kokomo High School. Both the players ahead of him, Jimmy Rayl and Jim Ligon, went on to professional careers in the American Basketball Association.

Balentine typically maintains a calm demeanor on the court. And despite idolizing noted trash talkers Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller growing up, Balentine said he rarely gets into battles of words.

“If a player wants to get into it with me, sometimes I’ll talk trash a little, and my mom, she hates it,” he said. “My family, my mom and dad and my grandma and grandpa, they always told me to let my game speak. I think it can be even more ridiculous when a player’s going nuts out there, to just keep it going. I think that’s more impressive than going nuts over one play.”

Balentine said his favorite active NBA player, and one he tries to emulate, is Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry.

“I like Steph Curry a lot. I like how he plays a lot. He can handle the ball really well, shoot the 3, obviously, the best in the league. He’s a terrific scorer and passer, can get to the bucket. I like how he plays (and) we’re kind of the same height.”

UE head coach Marty Simmons on Balentine’s dramatic improvement his sophomore season: “Like anything else in life, once you get through it once you certainly have more confidence and understanding in terms of how to handle certain situations that arise the second time through.”

Aces junior Adam Wing on Balentine’s personality: “He’s always cracking jokes and playing pranks; he’s a fun guy to be around. But on the court, it’s the complete opposite. On the court, in the games, it’s serious. It’s focusing on the task at hand, and that’s winning. He doesn’t care how that happens as long as we’re winning the game.”