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????????????????The Sports Network
?????? DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 5, 8:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ford Center (11,000) -- Evansville, Indiana. Television: None. Home Record: MSU 11-1, Evansville 8-4. Away Record: MSU 3-5, Evansville 2-9. Neutral Record: MSU 1-1, Evansville 0-0. Conference Record: MSU 5-5, Evansville 3-7. Series Record: Missouri State leads 32-27.
GAME NOTES: The Missouri State Bears take to the road to meet the Evansville Purple Aces, in a Missouri Valley Conference battle at the Ford Center.
In their last outing, Missouri State beat Bradley at home, 74-61, on Saturday. That left the Bears with three wins in their last four tries.
Evansville comes into the contest having lost its last two games and is just 3-7 in its last 10 overall. The Purple Aces fell to nationally-ranked Wichita State on Saturday, 81-67.
The Bears and Aces have met 59 times with the Bears now owning a 32-27 lead, Two weeks ago, the Bears overcame a 34-32 halftime deficit to score a 64-61 home win over the Aces. Last year, the teams split the season series, each winning at home. Both games were close affairs, with Evansville beating the Bears and MSU responding with a 62-61 decision.
Jamar Gulley scored 19 points and pulled down nine rebounds in the Bears' win over Bradley. Austin Ruder added 13 points for Missouri State, while Ron Mvouika had 10 points and four assists. The Bears knocked down 12-of-25 attempts from beyond the arc in the contest.
Gulley (14.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg) leads the Bears in scoring. Marcus Marshall (14.3 ppg) is the only other player averaging in double figures for the team, but he is out indefinitely after undergoing right knee surgery. In Marshall's absence, Ruder (8.9 ppg) is the second-best scoring option, although he is only shooting 41 percent from the field. Also trending up is Mvouika (7.4 ppg), who has now scored in double figures in two straight games. The Bears will need others to step up going forward, especially if they hope to maintain their pace on offense, as they rank fourth in the MVC in scoring (72.7 ppg). They are giving up 71.1 ppg, which is next-to-last in the league.
D.J. Balentine surpassed his season average with 26 points, but a 25-4 first- half rally helped Wichita State top Evansville on Saturday. He was the lone Ace to post double figures. Egidijus Mockevicius was a distant second on the team with eight points. Evansville led 29-14 midway through the first half but the big run by the Shockers wiped that out and the Purple Aces never seriously challenged again.
Balentine's league-leading scoring average continues to climb, as he now is netting 23.1 ppg. He is also the club's primary playmaker as he hands out 4.1 apg, while shooting 42.2 percent from the perimeter and 87.3 percent from the foul line. Four others net between 7.0 and 9.1 ppg for an Evansville squad that is putting up 70.7 ppg while permitting a MVC-worst 72.7 ppg.
As the two worst teams in the conference in scoring defense, both of these squads are giving up a ton of points to their opponents. They also both rely heavily on one player to do the bulk of the scoring. With that in mind, expect the advantage to fall to the team with the best player on the court, so look for Evansville to pull out the victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Evansville 77, Missouri State 74
02/05 10:32:21 ET
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