Missouri State (3-10) at Evansville (7-6) (ET)
GAME NOTES: Missouri Valley Conference action continues on Wednesday night, as the Evansville Purple Aces play host to the Missouri State Bears.
After getting off to a modest 2-2 start, Missouri State slipped into a dreadful eight-game losing streak. Despite their poor record, the Bears came out strong in their MVC opener on Sunday, defeating Southern Illinois, 70-59, for their first win in more than a month.
Evansville's 7-6 start is thanks in large part to a stellar showing in its home arena, as it has won six of eight contests at the Ford Center. The Purple Aces have been on the downswing of late however, losing back-to-back games to Butler (75-67) and most recently Creighton (87-70) in their MVC opener last Saturday.
These two programs have played each other tight over the years, with Missouri State holding a narrow 30-26 edge in the series. However, the Purple Aces have taken four straight contests over the past two years.
Scoring has come at a price for Missouri State this season, as the team is making good on just 38.5 percent of its field goal attempts for an MVC-worst scoring average of 58.4 ppg (8.8 ppg less than the ninth-place team). Fortunately, the Bears bounced back just in time for the start of league play, as they shot a lofty 54.1 percent from the floor on their way to an 11-point victory this past weekend. Anthony Downing scored 16 points and connected on all seven of his free throw attempts, and Nathan Scheer (15 points) provided a spark off the bench by going a perfect 5-of-5 from 3-point range. Marcus Marshall was also impressive in the triumph with 11 points and six rebounds. On the season, only Downing scores in double-digits on a nightly basis with 13.0 ppg, but Marshall (9.8 ppg) and Christian Kirk (9.6 ppg) are right on the doorstep. Somewhat making up for the poor shooting performance has been a sound effort at the defensive end, as MSU limits foes to just 62.8 ppg.
Evansville was overmatched in nearly every facet of the game in its recent 17- point loss to nationally-ranked Creighton, but the Purple Aces weren't completely devoid of highlights. Troy Taylor stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, marking only the second triple-double in school history. Colt Ryan also shined in the setback, shooting 9-of-20 from the field en route to 25 points. Evansville's .449 field goal percentage this year has resulted in a productive 69.5 ppg, and it has been able to hold opposing teams to 64.4 ppg thanks in large part to an outstanding turnover margin (plus-4.3). Against Creighton, Ryan was able to revert back to his 2011-12 ways when he averaged 20.5 ppg, but even though he is still the team's leading scorer, his production has taken a sizeable dip in his senior season, down to 14.7 ppg. Ned Cox (10.7 ppg) and D.J. Balentine (10.0 ppg) have been solid second options offensively, and while Taylor is typically a light scorer (5.6 ppg), he helps out with team-highs in rebounds (6.7 rpg) and assists (4.5 apg).
Missouri State showed plenty of promise in moving to 1-0 in conference, but it will more than likely fall back to its losing ways on the road against a capable Evansville squad.
GAME NOTES: Missouri Valley Conference action continues on Wednesday night, as
the Evansville Purple Aces play host to the Missouri State Bears.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ford Center (10,000) -- Evansville, Indiana.
Television: Ozarks CW, ESPN3.com. Home Record: MSU 3-4, Evansville 6-2. Away
Record: MSU 0-4, Evansville 1-4. Neutral Record: MSU 0-2, Evansville 0-0.
Conference Record: MSU 1-0, Evansville 0-1. Series Record: Missouri State
leads, 30-26.Game Date and Time
Wednesday, January 2, 8:05 p.m. (et)Predicted Outcome
Evansville 72, Missouri State 61