UE looks for second win in a row.
Fresh off of its first Missouri Valley Conference victory of the season, the University of Evansville men’s basketball team is back at the Ford Center on Wednesday evening to face preseason favorite Missouri State.
Saturday saw the Purple Aces pick up an important 68-44 win over Bradley. The defense held the Braves to just 34.9% shooting while the offense shot 49% overall and a perfect 100% (10/10) from the line.
“Missouri State was picked to win the conference, so it’s a big game for us, but every Valley game is huge,” Aces sophomore Dru Smith said. “We have been right in there in each game and the difference against Bradley is that we were able to sustain that play.”
Following an 0-3 start to conference play, the Purple Aces righted the ship on Saturday with a 68-44 win over Bradley. The margin of victory was the top against an MVC opponent since UE defeated Indiana State in the 2016 MVC Tournament by a final of 68-42; that also marked the last time the Aces held a league squad under 45 points.
Since returning from injury on December 23 after missing seven games, Ryan Taylor has made it look easy, averaging 21 points per game. In four league contests, Taylor is shooting 47.9% from the floor and 53.8% (28/52) from inside the arc. He has notched four 20-point games in a row while reaching the mark in six of his last seven games. The Bradley game marked his 8th 20-point game of the season; he had six such games last season.
His season average stands at 21.2 points per game, which is the top tally in the MVC. Since players must play in 65% of a team’s games to be officially ranked, Taylor will move back on top following the January 17 game against Indiana State, assuming he does not miss a game in between.
Blake Simmons begins the week with 970 career points; he is just 30 shy of becoming the 49th player in program history to score 1,000 in his career.
Picked in the top spot in the preseason conference rankings, Missouri State has backed that up, sitting at 13-4 overall and 3-1 in their first four league games. Preseason Player of the Year Alize Johnson leads the squad with 15.1 points and a league-high 11.2 rebounds per game. Johnson’s rebounding tally is 10th in the nation while his 11 double-doubles is 5th in the NCAA. MSU excels on the glass, ranking 5th in the country in rebounding margin (+9.6 per game).
“Missouri State is a tough-minded, competitive team,” Evansville head coach Marty Simmons said. “Alize Johnson has used his experience from last year to improve this season. We will have to see all five of our guys contribute especially on the boards. This is the best rebounding team we have played this season.”