Evansville (11-16) at Indiana State (20-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 19, 7:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hulman Center (10,200) -- Terre Haute, Indiana. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Evansville 9-6, ISU 10-1. Away Record: Evansville 2-10, ISU 9-4. Neutral Record: Evansville 0-0, ISU 1-1. Conference Record: Evansville 4-10, ISU 11-3. Series Record: Indiana State leads, 85-75.
GAME NOTES: The second-best team in the Missouri Valley Conference is in action tonight, as the Indiana State Sycamores host the Evansville Purple Aces at the Hulman Center.
Everyone knows about undefeated Wichita State over in the MVC, but also having a strong season is Indiana State with an overall mark of 20-6 and 11-3 in league play. The team has won three straight and four of the last five, the lone setback coming against the Shockers (65-58) two weeks ago. The most recent triumph for the program was a 60-57 final versus Southern Illinois over the weekend.
As for the Purple Aces, they began the week tied with Drake and Loyola-Chicago for last place in the MVC with just four wins in 14 opportunities. On Sunday, the team was dominated by Wichita State at home, 84-68, marking the fifth setback in the last six outings for Evansville.
ISU crushed the Purple Aces in the first meeting of the season early last month, 81-62, which means a win tonight would be the eighth sweep in the last nine years in this series by one side of the other. Overall, the series leans towards the Sycamores, 85-75, and with this being the 161st meeting it also means it is the most games played by Indiana State against another opponent.
Egidijus Mockevicius and D.J. Balentine both tallied 19 points, the former clearing 10 rebounds as he shot a perfect 7-of-7 from the floor and 5-of-5 at the free-throw line, but even that was not enough for the Purple Aces to stay close to the Shockers. Also scoring in double figures for Evansville was Blake Simmons with 12 points, as the team's impressive 51.1 percent accuracy from the floor was no match for 18 turnovers.
Balentine, who shot just 5-of-17 from the floor in the last outing, continues to be one of the most aggressive scorers in the MVC and the nation, sporting an average of 23.1 ppg. Not only has Balentine been a fixture at the free- throw line (192-of-221) and knocked down 41.2 percent of his 153 3-point chances, he is also second on the unit with 106 assists. A 62.7 percent shooter from the floor, Mockevicius accounts for another 10.0 ppg and is tops on the glass with 8.0 rpg, yet has a mere eight assists in more than 600 minutes of playing time.
Trailing by as many as seven points seven minutes into the second half, the Sycamores were let back into the game against Southern Illinois as the Salukis shot only 5-of-13 at the free-throw line over the last 20 minutes. Jake Odum produced a team-best 15 points and reserve Khristian Smith came away with 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the hosts. The program survived just 4-of-18 shooting behind the 3-point line in the meeting.
Through 14 conference games, Smith leads four players in double figures with his 12.8 ppg, even though he has come off the bench in all but one of those outings. Smith is also first on the glass with 5.9 rpg, which should be convincing enough to keep him inside rather than on the perimeter where he has converted just 25.6 percent of his attempts. Odum (11.9 ppg) is also struggling from the outside (.296), but it is essential to have him on the floor with his 61 assists.
Matching up a very successful team on their home floor against a woeful squad when it hits the road and this is a clear winner for the Sycamores.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Indiana State 76, Evansville 65
02/19 10:35:13 ET