Story from last night’s season-opening win:
–Courier & Press: http://bit.ly/1dbTAmF
–Surprised by D.J. Balentine’s 29-point, nine-rebound performance? The sophomore put up huge numbers for the second consecutive game — he scored 25 in the Illinois-Springfield exhibition — and frankly, this is what I think we’ll be seeing from him for the majority of the season. We now know he can run the point — he did so for the majority of the time Duane Gibson spent on the bench — and he’s got a terrific off-the-dribble game. He’s also the guy UE will probably look to in transition if Gibson or Jaylon Brown isn’t already handling the ball. Saturday’s performance was impressive, and I think fans should get used to it.
–There are other returning players that can step up, too, and I’m waiting to really see Egidijus Mockevicius have a significant impact in a game. He certainly didn’t have his best outing against Martin Methodist, sitting on the bench in foul trouble for most of the game, but seven points and six rebounds in 14 minutes is a solid night. Mockevicius is still young, and I’m sure the Aces are hoping by the time Missouri Valley Conference play rolls around, he’ll be a more dominant force in the paint.
–And Mockevicius’ replacement, junior Jaylon Moore, had a highlight reel-worthy play midway through the first half. Moore slammed home a two-handed jam on an inbounds pass from Balentine that got the crowd on its feet and sparked a mini 4-0 run that pushed the Aces’ lead back to double digits. Moore finished with just six points, but he showed a bit of his athletic potential with that dunk. He’ll continue to be a solid contributor off the bench.
–What was most impressive for this young squad was how well it adjusted to early-game situations. The Aces committed five turnovers in the first three minutes of the game, either in transition or sloppy passing and rebounding, but slowed the offense down and only pushed in transition when it was there. For the remaining 17 minutes, UE committed just three turnovers. It had 13 in the game, which makes sense since the team is so young, but had an impressive 22 assists. It’s small things like these that show a bit of promise and maturity in such a young squad.