Men's Basketball To Finish Regular Season At Loyola
March 1, 2014HOOSIER SPORTS 365
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – With Arch Madness just a week away, the Purple Aces men's basketball team travels to Chicago for its final regular season test, playing Loyola on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.
Head coach Marty Simmons became the fifth coach in program history to win his 100th game as the Purple Aces topped Drake by a 61-48 final in the home finale. In the first meeting, Evansville allowed 94 points against the Bulldogs, the most DU scored against a D1 opponent; the tables turned in the Ford Center as the Aces held Drake to a season low of 48.
D.J. Balentine rebounded to score 23 versus the Bulldogs, hitting 9 out of 20 shots while dishing out a game-high seven assists; Blake Simmons added 13 while Egidijus Mockevicius posted 11 caroms. With the win, the Aces finished their regular season home slate with a 10-7 mark; it was the third time in four seasons that UE has won 10 or more home contests.
Balentine came back with a vengeance following two points against SIU; the sophomore led all players with 23 points, 4 triples and 7 assists was UE took down Drake. Despite hitting just one free throw against the Bulldogs, Balentine moved up a spot in the conference rankings as his 86% effort this season from the line leads the MVC.
Over the last seven games, Mockevicius has averaged 10.7 rebounds per game while posting double figures in that department in six of those seven outings. That spurt helped him to take the MVC lead at 8.3 per game while his conference game pace of 9.2/game is also tops. The accurate shooting continued as Mockevicius hit 2 of his 4 shots versus Drake to stand at 64.3% on the year; tops in the league and 9th in the country.
Loyola has turned heads in its inaugural campaign in the Missouri Valley Conference despite a 9-20 mark and a 4-13 league effort. All of the Rambler conference triumphs have come at home against Missouri State, Drake, UNI and Illinois State; overall, Loyola is 8-5 at Gentile Arena. Shooting 46.5% as a team, the Ramblers are the top shooting squad in the MVC; two of their regular starters shoot well over 50% as Christian Thomas stands at 54.8% and Nick Osborne checks in shooting .525.
Redshirt freshman Milton Doyle is one of the top young players in the league and leads LUC with 15.2 points; the transfer from Kansas also leads the team in assists (100), steals (37) and blocked shots (20). Top rebounder Christian Thomas (6.4/ game) is the No. 4 shooter in the MVC, shooting 54.8%. In Tuesday's game at Missouri State, Tony Nixon came off the bench to pace the offense with 15 points as he hit 5 of his 9 attempts; Joe Crisman posted 14 on a 6-9 shooting day.
Evansville and Loyola meet for the second time as members of the MVC; the first meeting saw the Aces post a 53-48 win on Jan. 18. The Aces lead the series by a 22-16 margin and have split 16 meetings in Chicago; overall, UE has won 15 games in a row against the Ramblers as conference mates; Loyola won both ends of the BracketBuster series that was played in 2005.