FACTS & STATS: Site: Ford Center (11,000) -- Evansville, Indiana. Television: HDNet. CBI Record: Princeton 2-1, Evansville 1-1. Series Record: Evansville leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Princeton Tigers and Evansville Purple Aces will extend their season just a bit longer as the two square off at the Ford Center in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational.
This will be only the second meeting all-time between these squads. Evansville came out on the winning side the first time with a 53-32 win at home during the 2007-2008 season.
The Tigers won their first two games in the 2010 CBI but lost in the semifinals to eventual runner up Saint Louis. The Tigers finished this season with a respectable 19-11 record, which included a win against ACC Champion Florida State, and are riding a four-game winning streak in the postseason after dashing the NCAA Tournament hopes of rival Penn in the regular season finale.
Evansville is playing in the CBI for the second straight season after getting its first bid to the annual event last season. The Purple Aces won in the first round but then fell to Boise State in the quarterfinals. Evansville finished the season with a more mediocre 16-15 overall mark including an even 9-9 tally in the tough Missouri Valley Conference.
In its regular season finale, Princeton faced a Penn squad that with a win would have forced a one-game playoff with Harvard for the Ivy League's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers played spoiler though with a 62-52 win at home. The Tigers shot at a stellar 58.3 percent rate to overcome 20 turnovers, while holding Penn to just 38.6 percent shooting in the win.
As is the case with most teams in the Ivy League, Princeton does not light up the scoreboard. The Tigers averaged a modest 66.2 points, but excelled on defense, allowing only 61.0 points per game. Junior forward Ian Hummer (16.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.0 apg) has been a fantastic all-around performer for the Tigers this season, leading the team in points and rebounds while ranking second in assists. Hummer had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the regular season finale and has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games. Douglas Davis (13.0 ppg) doesn't add much in terms of rebounding or assists but has been the team's second leading scorer this season, while Patrick Saunder (6.6 ppg) has increased his scoring total with double-digit point totals in five of the last six games.
Evansville was demolished by eventual MVC Title winner Creighton in its last outing in the conference tournament. After playing two tight contests earlier in the season versus the Bluejays, the Purple Aces dropped a 99-71 decision by shooting 42.4 percent from the floor, while Creighton hit on 60.4 percent of its shots.
Evansville has the ability to score (73.1 ppg), but has been a little lax on the defensive end, giving up 72.0 papg. One contributing factor to the defensive struggles is the team's inability to effectively rebound, finishing last in the MVC and better than only 10 teams nationally with 29.2 rpg. Powering the team is junior guard Colt Ryan (20.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.3 apg), who finished the year second only to MVC Player of the Year Doug McDermott in scoring. Ryan's ability to shoot from beyond the arc (.427) makes him a threat to erupt in any matchup. Denver Holmes (11.5 ppg, 3.6 apg) and Kenneth Harris (11.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg) provide depth.
These teams could not be more different with Evansville relying on its scoring prowess to make up for defensive shortcomings, Princeton plays more of a sound game defensively, with little offensive flash. Evansville will need Ryan to again step up and be the scorer he has been all season if the Purple Aces are to advance.