Indiana State (10-3) at Evansville (7-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 4, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ford Center (11,000) -- Evansville, Indiana. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: ISU 5-0, EU 6-2. Away Record: ISU 4-2, EU 1-5. Neutral Record: ISU 1-1, EU 0-0. Conference Record: ISU 1-0, EU 0-1. Series Record: Indiana State leads, 84-75.
GAME NOTES: The surging Indiana State Sycamores aim for their fourth straight victory when they collide with the Evansville Purple Aces on Saturday night in Missouri Valley Conference action.
The Sycamores, winners of seven of their last eight games, are coming off a 70-58 home decision over Loyola-Chicago on Wednesday. Manny Arop registered 18 points and seven rebounds. Arop shot 7-of-15 from the field, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range. Dawon Cummings came off the bench to net 10 points.
Indiana State has the top-ranked offense in the MVC, as the Sycamores average 78 ppg. They are also the best free-throw shooting team in the conference with a .740 percentage, and the top field goal shooting team (.496), 3-point shooting squad (.423). The Sycamores also lead the league in steals (7.4 spg).
Arop has put together four straight double-digit scoring performances and leads the team with 13.3 ppg. He is followed closely by Jake Odum (12.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Justin Gant (12.5 ppg). Cummings (9.6 ppg) is also part of the starting lineup for a team that has actually struggled at times defensively. Foes are shooting 45.5 percent from the field, which is the worst yield in the MVC.
The Purple Aces, who lost to Drake, 94-66, on New Year's Day, have dropped four of their last five contests. D.J. Balentine produced 20 points for Evansville in the Purple Aces' conference opener. Evansville never led in the game.
Balentine has scored in double figures in all 14 contests and paces the MVC with 22.6 ppg. The 6-foot-2 sophomore guard is shooting 87.6 percent from the charity stripe, which is third-best in the league. Sophomore backcourt mate Adam Wing (8.9 ppg) is shooting 50.6 percent from the field. Even better, though, is Lithuanian sophomore center Egidijus Mockevicius (9.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg), who is making 60.8 percent of his attempts. That's second-best in the MVC. Mockevicius is making just 62.5 percent of his foul shots. Getting to the charity stripe is a big part of Evansville's game, as the Aces get nearly 27 percent of their offense from the foul line, compared to just under 17 percent for their opponents.
The Sycamores have won the last 10 meetings against the Purple Aces, including a pair of victories last year. One of those wins was in the 2013 MVC Tournament quarterfinals. The last time these teams played in Evansville, the Purple Aces came away victorious, 84-68, on March 2, 2013. Expect a tight contest, but if the Sycamores can limit Balentine offensively they should come out on top.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Indiana State 78, Evansville 75
01/04 10:34:01 ET