Evansville (12-18) at Loyola-Chicago (9-20)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 1, 4 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gentile Arena (4,486) -- Chicago, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: UE 10-7, Loyola 8-5. Away Record: UE 2-11, Loyola 0-14. Neutral Record: UE 0-0, Loyola 1-1. Conference Record: UE 5-12, Loyola 4-13. Series Record: Evansville leads, 22-16.
GAME NOTES: The regular seasons comes to a close this afternoon for the Evansville Purple Aces and Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, as the two are set for a Missouri Valley Conference matchup at Gentile Arena.
Evansville will try for consecutive wins for the first time since November after topping Drake at home on Tuesday, 61-48. However, the Purple Aces had lost seven of eight prior to that outcome, and they are just 2-11 in road games this season.
Loyola has endured similar struggles as it enters this contest with losses in five straight and eight of its last nine games overall. Most recently, the Ramblers traveled to Missouri State on Tuesday and were dealt a 72-56 defeat.
Evansville notched a 53-48 home win over Loyola on Jan. 18, and it owns a 22-16 lead in the all-time series.
The Purple Aces found themselves trailing by four at halftime against Drake earlier this week, but they turned things around by holding the Bulldogs to only six second-half field goals (.300). At the offensive end of the floor, UE shot 50 percent from the field and knocked down 4-of-6 3-point tries over the final 20 minutes. D.J. Balentine led all scorers with 23 points to go along with seven assists in the win, while Blake Simmons also reached double figures with 13 points. That duo combined to shoot 6-of-11 (.545) from the perimeter.
Balentine, a 40 percent 3-point shooter on the season, continues to lead the MVC in scoring with 22.2 ppg. Down low, Egidiju Mockevicius is averaging 10.3 points and a team-best 8.3 rebounds per tilt.
Leading the way for Loyola are Milton Doyle (15.2 ppg) and Christian Thomas (13.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg). Doyle does a little bit of everything, as he is first on the team in assists (3.4 apg), blocks (0.7) and steals (1.3), and is second in 3-pointers (1.3) and rebounds (4.3). Thomas is a 55 percent shooter from the floor who does most of his work in the paint.
In Tuesday's loss to Missouri State, reserve Tony Nixon provided a spark with a season-high 15 points in 21 minutes off the bench as he drained 5-of-9 3- point tries. Joe Crisman added 14 points and six rebounds, but Doyle shot just 1-of-8 from the floor and finished with five points in 31 minutes. The Bears pulled away behind a 14-4 first-half run, and Loyola was never quite able to recover.
It has indeed been a trying season for both of these teams, but one of them will get to end things on a positive note. The Purple Aces have been borderline dreadful on the road, but they'll bring some confidence into this game after Tuesday's double-digit victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Evansville 63, Loyola-Chicago 59
03/01 11:12:56 ET