Purple Aces stack the deck against Salukis

Purple Aces stack the deck against Salukis

By Tyler Dixon

The top two scorers in the Missouri Valley Conference entered SIU Arena Saturday, but only one was able to propel his team to victory.

Evansville University (8-9, 1-3 MVC) won its first five games of the season, but is only 3-9 since its initial winning streak. The team’s success on Saturday came from the help of Aces sophomore guard D.J. Balentine, who finished with 33 points and was able to knock down shots all afternoon.

SIU (5-12, 1-3) senior Desmar Jackson finished with 13.

Advertisement

Coach Barry Hinson said when a player is playing as well as Balentine, something needs to be done to stop him.

“When a guy runs a fever, you got to do something about it; you got to take care of it,” he said.

Junior guard Mike Balogun hit five 3-pointers to lead the Salukis with 15 points.

Balogun said it felt like he was shooting with his eyes closed but said the team lost because they were out-rebounded and the intensity level was not the same as in Wednesday’s win against the Ramblers.

“Loyola, we were all in it, 15 strong,” Balogun said. “Tonight, it wasn’t like that so much. We got down and then we basically stayed down.”

With starting point guard Marcus Fillyaw for 4-6 weeks with a broken bone in his left hand, Hinson said whoever shows him the most in practice will play.

Balogun said this gives other players on the team an opportunity to show what they can do.

Advertisement

“Coach has been saying if you don’t play hard, you don’t play. He’s stuck to his word on it,” he said. “Every day is just another opportunity to gain some more playing time.”

The Salukis carried a 33-27 lead at the half and shot better than the Purple Aces from the field, 3-point range and from the free-throw line.

Along with Balogun, junior guard Dawson Verhines was another player that was able to get more playing time. Verhines said the offense was not running as efficiently as it could have been in the second part of the game.

“It felt like our offense, especially in the second-half, was a little stagnant and, I mean, it’s just something we have to work on,” he said.

The win over the Salukis was the first conference win of the season for the Purple Aces. Coach Marty Simmons said the team has not started the conference like it expected to.

“I’m just happy for the guys in the locker room,” Simmons said. “We’ve had a slow start here and those guys have hung in there and they keep battling.”

The Salukis have shot well from the field this season but not from long-range. SIU shot 25 3-pointers in the game, well above their season average.

“We shot 25 threes and we’re not a 3-point shooting team,” Hinson said. “We had guys shooting threes today that had no business shooting threes, and we’ve got to figure that out. As a head coach, I’ve got to make sure they understand who can and can’t shoot threes.”

The Salukis had a chance to sway the momentum in their favor when Jackson was able to finish at the rim with authority, but Evansville center Egidijus Mockevicius answered with a basket plus the foul at the other end. After Jackson’s slam, the crowd was back in the game but the Purple Aces’ big man quickly quieted them with the strong play.

Simmons said the crowd in SIU Arena would always be a concern.

“That’s the way it’s always been at SIU,” he said. “I think you got one of the best atmospheres in the league.”

Jackson’s season average will take a small dip as he finished with 13 points. Along with his point totals, Jackson has been helping the Salukis in other parts of the game. He had nine rebounds and added three steals in the loss. Sophomore guard Anthony Beane had 10 points, his second consecutive double-digit game.

Hinson said SIU will to try rebound Tuesday against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers. The game starts at 7:05 p.m. at SIU Arena.

“Northern Iowa, a team that beat this team (Evansville) by 30,” Hinson said. “Got to get ready to play, it’s Missouri Valley basketball.”

Advertisement