Story from UE’s 82-74 exhibition win against Illinois-Springfield:
–Courier & Press: http://bit.ly/Hz88CX
–The Aces only played three bench players in the exhibition. As opposed to the game against Trevecca Nazarene, where everybody but Ryan Sawvell and Rokas Cesnulevicius (injuries) saw the floor, UE didn’t turn to its bench as much, probably because the Prairie Stars posed a bigger challenge than did the Trojans. UE beat Trevecca Nazarene handily — by 43 points — so head coach Marty Simmons was able to clear his bench and give all of his players game experience, but since Illinois-Springfield was such a familiar opponent (head coach Ben Wierzba is a former UE assistant under Simmons) and a veteran squad, the Aces naturally would have a bit more of a challenge; hence, not turning to the bench as often.
–As athletic as freshmen Duane ‘Boo’ Gibson and Jaylon Brown are at point guard, many people may be wondering why they aren’t scoring so much. Gibson scored nine on Saturday and Brown had just three points. As Marty Simmons said in the preseason, the point guard is going to be more of a distributor in the offense instead of a primary scorer. As freshmen, Gibson and Brown are still getting used to the offense, and while they can make athletic plays — Brown had a nice reverse layup against Illinois-Springfield — they’ll probably continue to be distributors until they have mastered the offense.
–After the exhibition game against Trevecca Nazarene, Simmons said the post play needed lots of work. After Saturday’s game, it probably still does, but UE is already showing improvement. Sophomore Egidijust Mockevicius was one rebound shy of a double-double against Illinois-Springfield (17 points, nine rebounds), a vast improvement from his six-point, six-rebound effort against the Trojans. Mockevicius also stayed out of foul trouble for the entire first half before picking up three quick fouls at the beginning of the second half, something he’s been struggling with. He also played well against Prairie Star big man Dylan Sparkman, who was held to just six points and eight rebounds after getting into foul trouble in both halves.
–Don’t be surprised to see excessive free-throw shooting in coming games. The NCAA changed some rules this year to put more emphasis on contact-free defense: hand-checking is now a foul, defenders aren’t allowed to bump cutters, and it’s becoming increasingly hard to draw a charge. It was evident in Saturday’s game, too. UE shot 42 free throws, making 28 of them, and sophomore D.J. Balentine took 14 himself. Balentine said after the game he wanted to work on getting to the free throw line more this season—he didn’t have that great of a season last year at the charity stripe—and yesterday’s game was a step in the right direction for that. Plus, it’ll be easy for him to draw fouls if he’s driving to the lane as much as he did against Illinos-Springfield.
–Balentine’s performance last night is what Simmons is probably expecting of him. He’s one of the leaders of the team — and this year’s top returning scorer — and is able to get to the basket and create plays, as shown against the Prairie Stars.