Aces take on Illinois for the first time
The 100th season of basketball commences for the University of Evansville as the Purple Aces travel to the University of Illinois for a 7 p.m. game on Thursday night.
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Head coach Walter McCarty begins his tenure as the 6th head coach in the Aces’ Division I history; the 10-year NBA star joins the program after working as an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics on the staff of Brad Stevens. Evansville returns six letterwinners, including two starters; UE brings in three newcomers and two walk-ons.
“It will be a great test for us with the way they play, they try to take you out of what you are trying to accomplish,” McCarty said. “I am interested to see how we respond being on the road, opening up and finding out how tough it will be.”
In its lone exhibition game, the Purple Aces picked up an 83-61 victory over New Mexico Highlands. Dainius Chatkevicius paced the team with 17 points and 8 rebounds while K.J. Riley finished with 16 points and 7 boards. Riley, UE’s leading free throw shooter from a year ago, was 7-10 from the line.
“There were a lot of positives. We keep a checklist of six things that we really want to do to be successful and we were able to accomplish five of those six things, which was really encouraging,” McCarty added. “There are things we have to work on before we play at Illinois, but we did a good job of having a balanced attack and getting everybody involved.”
Takeaways from the exhibition:
– UE outscored NMHU by a 15-2 margin to open the second half
– The Aces hit nine 3-pointers in the win; the team hit that many triples just twice last season
– Shea Feehan was on the floor for 32 minutes and had 8 points and 5 rebounds
– Freshmen Jawaun Newton and Shamar Givance played 12 and 11 minutes, respectively, in their first on-court action at UE
– Evansville turned 19 Cowboy turnovers into 28 points
– The five bench players for the Aces outscored the NMHU bench, 32-7
Despite the schools being roughly three hours from each other, the programs have never met on the hard wood. Illinois is one of just two current Big Ten members that the Aces have never faced; the other is Wisconsin. Thursday’s game will be the 51st game the Aces have played against a current Big Ten school; UE is 15-35 in its 50 contests. Evansville’s last game against a league member came at Indiana in 2013 while the last victory was a 75-69 win over Purdue on December 3, 2005.
Through its first 99 season openers, the Purple Aces are 66-33. Last season, Evansville picked up a 77-63 win over Arkansas State in the opener at the Ford Center.
Illinois is coming off of a 14-18 campaign that saw them go 4-14 in Big Ten play in their first season under head coach Brad Underwood. The Fighting Illini defeated Illinois Wesleyan by a final of 83-67 in their exhibition game. Andres Feliz led the way for Illinois, posting 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Trent Frazier added 19 points while freshman Ayo Dosunmu recorded 13 points. Following their game against UE, Illinois welcomes Georgetown on Tuesday, Nov. 13.