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Balentine tied his career-high with 29 points in last night's win.

Balentine tied his career-high with 29 points in last night’s win.

Story from last night’s 84-78 road win:

–Courier & Press: http://bit.ly/HTCvo1

Some observations:

–Earlier in the week, head coach Marty Simmons said the team was practicing multiple defensive sets to stop IUPUI center Mitch Patton, who had 26 points and 10 rebounds in the Jaguars’ season opener. However, the senior big man sat out last night’s contest with a boot on his left foot. That must’ve made the paint easier to attack, right? Not necessarily. UE didn’t run many plays targeting sophomore forward Egidijus Mockevicius or junior forwards Jaylon Moore or Ryan Sawvell, which doesn’t make much sense to me. Without Patton in, Mockevicius should’ve had an easier time posting up and grabbing rebounds, but the sophomore had just six points and three rebounds in 21 minutes. Moore had another inbounds dunk, but that was the only highlight of UE’s forwards’ play last night. Though the Aces had 36 points in the paint, most came from guards driving to the basket off ball screens or on the fast break. Simmons said after the game they tried to make adjustments during the game — the coaches weren’t aware of Patton’s injury until minutes before the game — but aside from attacking the paint more, I didn’t really see many adjustments. Mockevicius also got in foul trouble, which didn’t help.

–The biggest thing this young squad needs to improve on is defense. UE likes to play mostly man, but in last night’s game it had to turn to zone for a majority of the second half because too many players got into foul trouble. The zone wasn’t too effective in shutting down the lane as UE had hoped, either. When a defender closed out on an outside shooter, he overcommitted, which allowed IUPUI to head fake and drive around the defender to get a better shot. When the Aces went to the zone, there were numerous times a defender was either slow to close out or allowed an open lane on the baseline, where the Jaguars thrived on floaters or pull-up jumpers. Sophomore guard D.J. Balentine said sometimes they closed out short on purpose, anticipating IUPUI to drive to the basket, but when that happened, the Jaguars could hit the three. With the new rules, we could be seeing more zone from UE down the road (especially in conference play), and Simmons knows defense is something the squad has to improve on.

–I was really impressed with the Aces’ free throw shooting last night. IUPUI started fouling when UE was up by six points with 40 seconds left, and a 6-for-6 effort down the line kept the six-point lead. Ian Chiles hit two quick 3-pointers after each Aces trip to the foul line, and if UE had missed a couple of those free throws down the stretch, the Jaguars would’ve had a legitimate shot at forcing overtime. An excellent 28-for-31 effort, including going 17-for-17 in the second half, sealed the game for UE in the end. Until teams can adjust to the new rules, free throw shooting can be a vital part of games, especially come conference play.

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