Aces Look For Another MVC Win On Wednesday
January 15, 2014HOOSIER SPORTS 365
EVANSVILLE SPORTS RELEASE
1/14/2014 11:08:00 AM
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Fresh off of its first win in Carbondale in 13 years, the Purple Aces look to run their Missouri Valley Conference win streak to two games as they make the trek to Normal, Ill. to face Illinois State on Wednesday evening beginning at 7:05 p.m.
A 12-game skid in Carbondale ended as the Purple Aces took a 75-69 win at SIU Arena on Saturday afternoon; it marked the first Evansville win there since 2001. D.J. Balentine notched a career-high 33 points along with his top effort of six boards in the victory. The win was clinched in the final minute as freshman Duane Gibson put forth a clutch 6-for-6 effort from the free throw line.
Balentine willed his team to a win on Saturday afternoon with a career performance that included 33 points and 6 rebounds. The game moved his season average back up to 22.4 points per game, still tops in the MVC and 8th in the nation. His efforts included 19 second-half points while hitting 5 of his 6 treys in the latter half. It marked the top half of basketball for an Evansville player since Colt Ryan had 30 in the second half at Canisius in the 2013 CIT and was the first player since Ryan to hit five 3-pointers in a half; Ryan hit 5 in the first half against Bradley on 1/18/12.
Let's give a nod to freshman Duane Gibson, who went a perfect 6-for-6 from the line in the final 41 seconds of the win against Southern Illinois. Entering the game, Gibson was a 70.4% free throw shooter and had hit just 14 out of 22 free throws in the final five minutes of play (63.6%). Gibson has been finding open teammates at an impressive clip; through 17 games, Gibson has notched 80 assists, good for 4.7 per game, 3rd in the Valley.
Several new faces make up the 2013-14 Redbirds for second-year head coach Dan Muller as his team sits at 9-7 overall and an even 2-2 in the league; four out of the five starters for ISU are newcomers with the one returning starter being redshirt sophomore Nick Zeisloft.
Their leading scorer is junior transfer Daishon Knight, who has averaged 12.8 points per game in his first year out of Odessa College; he came off the bench in the Redbirds' win over Loyola. Another JUCO transfer has started 11 games this season as guard Bobby Hunter has posted 10.1 PPG; he was the No. 2 JUCO scorer a season ago at Santa Fe College, averaging 25.2 points. Sophomore guard Zach Lofton is the No. 2 scorer for the Redbirds, averaging 11.3 PPG; he was one of the top 100 JUCO scorers last season at San Jacinto College. Center Reggie Lynch is the Valley's leading shot blocker with 2.4 per game; he blocked 3 shots last time out versus Loyola along with 11 points and 5 rebounds.
Evansville is 17-30 all-time against Illinois State including 4-18 on the road in Normal. The Aces have won four of the last six meetings overall, including a win at Redbird Arena on Jan. 15, 2011. Last season saw ISU take a 67-62 home win over the Aces; the top four scorers in that contest are no longer on the floor for their respective teams as the Redbirds were led by Jackie Carmichael (24 pts) and Tyler Wilson (23) while Ned Cox (18) and Colt Ryan (17) led UE, Balentine posted 14 for the Aces.
Over the course of the 2013-14 season, the Purple Aces have gone to the free throw line an average of 27 times per game while the opposition has made an average of just 20 appearances at the charity stripe. Free throws have comprised 26.4% of the Aces offense this season (322/1219 points), that is the highest total on record for UE; the previous high in that statistic came in the 1954-55 season when the Aces made 585 free throws while scoring a total of 2259 points (25.9%).
Free throws make up just 18.6% of the offense for UE's opponents. UE's 27 FT attempts per game are the most since 1971-72 when the Aces averaged 27.7 per game; the highest average for free throws attempts per game came in 1954-55 when UE went to the line an average of 32.3 times per game (841 attempts in 26 games).