Evansville (7-6) at Drake (9-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 1, 8:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The Knapp Center (7,152) -- Des Moines, Iowa. Television: None. Home Record: Evansville 6-2, Drake 4-1. Away Record: Evansville 1-4, Drake 2-2. Neutral Record: Evansville 0-0, Drake 3-0. Conference Record: Evansville 0-0, Drake 0-0. Series Record: Evansville leads, 20-19
GAME NOTES: The Drake Bulldogs return to the Knapp Center on a three-game winning streak and looking to make it four in a row as they open up Missouri Valley Conference play against the Evansville Purple Aces on New Year's Day.
Evansville has lost three of its last four games, but is coming off a 35-point victory over Grambling, 96-61, Saturday. The 7-6 Purple Aces start up conference play looking to make more of an impact this season after starting the campaign 5-0.
Drake is 9-3 on the season after three straight wins, including a 75-52 drubbing of IUPUI on Sunday. The Bulldogs are trying to keep pace with Wichita State, which has still yet to lose.
The all-time series between these two Missouri Valley Conference foes stands at 20-19 in favor of Evansville.
Evansville dismantled Grambling, as D.J. Balentine led the way with a game- high 20 points and seven assists. Five Purple Aces finished in double figures against the Tigers, including Jaylon Brown, who ended with 14, a career mark for the freshman. Blake Simmons netted 14 points as well to go along with six assists and three steals. The Purple Aces took a quick 10-3 lead after hitting all five of their first shots in the first three minutes of the game. Evansville went into the locker room up 42-29 at the half, with Simmon leading the way for the Purple Aces with 10 points. Balentine took over in the second half, scoring five points in an opening second-half stretch that saw Evansville score 10 of the first 11 points.
Balentine is by far the leading scorer for the Purple Aces, averaging 22.8 ppg, which is good for eighth in the nation. He is hitting 44.4 percent of his shots from the floor, and is shooting 87.2 percent from the free-throw line. Balentine helps out in other areas as well, ranking second on the team with 55 assists. Egidijus Mockevicius is a distant second on the team in scoring with 9.8 ppg. He leads the team in rebounding, pulling down 7.1 rpg.
Drake led by as many as 31 points in Sunday's win over IUPUI in the final non- conference game of the season for the Bulldogs. Chris Caird scored 17 points to lead Drake, 15 coming in the first half. Jordan Daniels finished the game with 15 points, with 13 coming in the second half. The Bulldogs led by 15 at halftime, 42-27, and didn't let up in the second half. Drake quickly earned a 20-point lead out of the gate and always maintained at least that much of a lead the rest of the way.
Richard Carter leads the Bulldogs in scoring this season with 18.4 ppg, followed by Daniels at 14 ppg and Gary Ricks at 12.3 ppg. Caird pulls down an average of 4.1 rpg and shoots a solid 46 percent on the season, including 86.7 from the free-throw line. Carter is the team leader in steals with 31, while Daniels paces the Bulldogs with 4.3 apg.
At the start of conference play, both teams will be chomping at the bit for wins. Evansville might need a little more than just Balentine to beat Drake on its home court.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Drake 72, Evansville 67
01/01 10:30:52 ET