Evansville Purple Aces (5-0)
Last time out: W, 91-68 vs. Anderson (Ind.) University on Saturday
Evansville took a 10-point halftime lead and never looked back against Anderson, securing its first 5-game winning streak since the 1999-2000 season. The Purple Aces, who led 48-38 at the break, scored the first 17 points of the second half to take a 65-38 lead just over six minutes into the half and never led by less than 20 the rest of the way.
Sophomore guard D.J. Balentine registered his fourth 29-point game of the season, shooting 10-of-11 from the floor while making all three of his 3-point shots and all six of his foul shots.
Three other Purple Aces finished in double figures. Junior forward Ryan Sawvell and freshman guard Blake Simmons each had 15 points while sophomore guard Adam Wing chipped in 12. Evansville shot 61.5 percent (16-26) in the first half and 57.7 percent for the game. The Purple Aces also took advantage of 23 Anderson fouls by shooting 25-of-30 (83.3 percent) from the line.
Record: 21-15, 10-8 Missouri Valley Conference (4th place)
The Purple Aces lost by a point to Indiana State in the opening round of the MVC tournament, just six days after beating the Sycamores by 16 at home to close the regular season.
Despite the disappointing performance in the conference tournament, the Purple Aces made a postseason tournament for the fourth time in five years. Evansville won its first three games in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament before losing to East Carolina in the semifinals.
Head Coach: Marty Simmons
At Evansville (7th season): 93-103. Career: same
What they do well:
Score at will, spread the ball around and hang on to the basketball
Evansville comes into Tuesday's game ranked 16th in the nation in scoring, averaging 90.2 points per game. The Purple Aces have shot a robust 52.7 percent from beyond the arc, though most of that has come from Balentine, who is 15-of-23 (65.2 percent). Simmons is 6-of-15 and Wing is 6-of-8, but beyond that, few others have contributed with the deep ball. Only three other players have attempted a three, and none of those players have attempted more than five.
"They're not hunting 3s," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "They're a spacing team. Our team will see more cuts, screens, flair screens, curls -- they'll see more of that in 10 minutes than they might see in three weeks tomorrow. They're very good at that."
Overall, The Purple Aces have shot 56.6 percent from the floor and are very efficient from the foul line. Evansville is tied for 39th in the nation in free throws attempted (163) and shoots a conference-best 79.8 percent from the line. The Purple Aces also lead the MVC in field goal percentage and 3-point shooting.
"This is one of the best offensive teams to come into Assembly Hall in some time," Crean said. "This is the best Evansville team that we've seen since we've been here."
While Balentine is the clear go-to scorer, Evansville has done an excellent job of sharing the basketball. Evansville is third in the country in assists per game (20.6) and sixth in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.87), the latter a result of the Purple Aces' ability to hang on to the basketball. The Purple Aces force a modest 13.8 turnovers per game but give it up just 11 times a contest, third-best in the MVC.
Four players average double figures, including Balentine (29.6), Wing (13.6 points per game), Simmons (11.8) and freshman guard Duane Gibson (11.0).
G D.J. Balentine, SO
Balentine has shot absolutely lights out to start the season. He is fourth in the nation in scoring (29.6) while shooting 59.4 percent from the floor, 65.2 percent on 3s (15-of-23) and a Ray Allen-like 94.4 percent (51-of-54) from the line. He has four 29-point games and a 32-point game, which came against Valparaiso last Wednesday.
Balentine has excelled in Evansville's motion offense after earning a spot on the MVC All-Freshman team last season. He averaged 8.1 points per game while playing in all 36 games, making one start.
G Duane Gibson, FR
Gibson has flourished at his spot alongside Balentine in Evansville's talented young backcourt. He has dished out 7.0 assists per game, tied for ninth in the country. The freshman hasn't racked up the assists by forcing passes,either. He's committed just 11 turnovers so far, good for an assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly +3.5.
He also leads a relatively small Evansville team in rebounding, averaging 5.0 per game. Gibson's ability to play an all-around game should come as no surprise. He averaged 12 points, 9.0 assists. 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assist per game as a senior at Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School in Cleveland, Ohio, earning him First-Team All Ohio honors.