Chapel Hill, N.C. - Dean E. Smith Center
7 p.m., ESPN (Terry Gannon, Len Elmore)
"It's great being 7-1 going into a place like that. This was a great win. But we're not satisfied. We can get better." – Evansville wing Shy Ely following Saturday's 72-40 win over Western Kentucky
"They're a good basketball team, and we knew they were going to be a good basketball team. They were very agreeable to come play us, so they knew they were going to be pretty good. At the start of practice, I always bring everybody around the center circle and go through the whole offense and defense and things like that, but I said, ‘Guys, remind me – who was the only team to beat Louisville this year?' …
"About half of them immediately said Western Kentucky. And then I said, ‘How many of you saw the Evansville-Western Kentucky score?', because Evansville beat Western Kentucky by 32. I think that gets their attention a little bit." – UNC head coach Roy Williams
Season to Date: Evansville enters Thursday night's contest with a 7-1 record. The Purple Aces are off to their best start since the 1981-82 squad won 10 of its first 11 and went on to capture the school's first NCAA Tournament berth at the Division I level. Evansville's lone loss occurred at Butler on Nov. 29, falling 75-59. Head coach Marty SImmon's program drew some national praise after blasting Western Kentucky, 72-40, last Saturday. That margin of victory was the largest in nine seasons for the Purples Aces. The Hilltoppers had previously upset No. 3 Louisville, 68-54.
Nothing Shy About His Play: Shy Ely was named the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week after knocking down 10 of his 14 shots and posting 26 points in the blowout win over Western Kentucky. The senior forward also posted 15 points and six rebounds in last Wednesday's victory over Eastern Illinois. Shy leads the team in scoring (16.1 points per game) and ranks fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference in that same category, while also pulling down 5.8 rebounds per game, good for second-best on the team.
Perimeter Effectiveness: Jason Holsinger (pictured, right) has been a mainstay in the starting rotation during his four years at Evansville, which helps to explain why he ranks No. 1 among active MVC players in scoring (1,164), 3-point field goals (239), assists (426) and free throw percentage (.852). The senior is averaging 13.6 points per game and 2.4 rebounds from his guard position.
Forget the Long Ball: While mid-majors typically rally around the three-point shot to pull off monumental upsets, Evansville's offense is not geared toward that mindset. Holsinger is the Purple Aces' lone marksman from downtown, connecting on 19 of his 54 attempts. No one else has made more than four three-pointers this season. Out of 330 Division I programs, Evansville ranks 322nd with a average of 3.8 makes per contest.
Simmons' Appearance in UNC's Past: The Purple Aces' head coach played for the Indiana University team that defeated the Tar Heels in the 1984 NCAA East Regional at Atlanta, Ga.,72-68. Simmons transferred to Evansville for his final two years after the 1984-85 season.
Series History: Thursday's game will be the first ever meeting between North Carolina and Evansville. This is the first of three in the series between these programs. After a break next season, UNC travels to Evansville in 2010-11, and then the Purple Aces return to Chapel Hill in 2011-12.
Projected Starters: 22 Jason Holsinger (5-11, 177, Sr.) – 13.6 ppg, 3.4 apg 20 Kaylon Williams (6-4, 185, Fr.) - 5.9 ppg, 3.3 apg 5 Shy Ely (6-4, 197, Sr.) – 16.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg 4 Nate Garner (6-5, 224, Sr.) - 9.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg 41 Pieter van Tongeren (6-11, 239, So.) – 6.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg Key Reserves: 32 James Haarsma (6-7, 210, Fr.) – 9.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg 2 Kevon Lacey (6-0, 185, So.) – 5.3 ppg 34 Denver Holmes (6-4, 180, Fr.) – 3.2 ppg
Background Location: Evansville, Ind. Enrollment: 2,593 Conference: Missouri Valley Conference Nickname: Purple Aces Colors: Purple, White & Orange Head Coach: Marty Simmons Record at UE: 16-22 Last Year: 9-21 (3-15)