Missouri State (16-14) at Evansville (14-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 25th, 2:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ford Center (11,000) -- Evansville, Indiana. Television: None. Home Record: Missouri State 8-7, Evansville 10-6. Away Record: Missouri State 8-5, Evansville 4-8. Neutral Record: Missouri State 0-2, Evansville 0-0. Conference Record: Missouri State 9-8, Evansville 8-9. Series Record: Missouri State leads, 30-24
GAMES NOTES: Two squads separated by just a single game in conference play will try to decide their differences when the Missouri State Bears go into the Ford Center for a Missouri Valley Conference showdown with the Evansville Purple Aces.
Evansville went into JQH Arena and pulled out an 87-82 win over Missouri State in the first meeting this season. The win was the second in a row for the Purple Aces after the Bears won five straight.
Missouri State has begun to regress as the season reaches its conclusion, with three straight losses. Most recently the Bears dropped a 59-46 decision at home to Indiana State and with an 9-8 mark in conference play, they are now tied with Drake for third in the conference. This is the final game of the season for Missouri State.
Evansville lost a heart-breaker on Tuesday against conference powerhouse Creighton. The Purple Aces already had an upset win under their belt against the Bluejays but had a second attempt fall short in a 93-92 overtime thriller. The loss came after consecutive wins for Evansville which has managed an 8-9 record in conference play in an up-and-down season. The Purple Aces are currently tied with four other team for fifth in the conference standings and could move up to as high as third place with a win.
Missouri State struggled to find any rhythm on offense on its home floor against Indiana State on Wednesday, shooting at just a 31.3 percent clip which included a 2-for-16 effort from beyond the arc. The Bears held up well enough, holding Indiana State to 42.9 percent shooting.
The Bears have really needed their defense to play well throughout this season as the team only scores 65.9 points per game while shooting 43.7 percent from the floor. More times than not the defense has answered the call in limiting opponents to 62.3 points per game. The offense was severely hurt with the stumbling of one of the conferences best scorers against Drake. Kyle Weems (15.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg) scored only seven points on 3-of-13 shooting in the defeat which was his first game out of double figures since opening night when he scored just four. Even with the effort Weems is still the fifth highest scoring player in the conference. Anthony Downing (11.4 ppg) and Jamar Gulley (10.2 ppg) are the second and third options, respectively, on the squad and did there best to make up for Weems' poor performance by combining for 27 points last time out. The conference's leading assist man, Michael Bizoukas (5.6 apg), had only four to go with three points in the losing effort.
Evansville led for the entire second half against Creighton on Tuesday and stretched its lead to as much as 14 but allowed the Blue Jays to crawl back into the game and send it to overtime with a last second lay up. In the extra period there were three ties and five lead changes but a Colt Ryan three-pointer at the buzzer was off and Evansville dropped the decision.
That three-pointer seemed like the only shot Ryan missed in the game as the normally fantastic scorer (20.8 ppg) threw the team on his back in scoring a career-high 43 points on 17-of-24 shooting. Ryan is the second highest scoring player in the conference and has now had more than 20 points in three straight games. Denver Holmes (11.7 ppg, 3.7 apg) also erupted and scored 25 points to go along with seven assists last time out. The duo combined for 73.9 percent of the total offensive output in the game. No other player had more than nine points. Evansville should be very comfortable in high-scoring affairs as the Purple Aces offense is putting in the third most points per game (73.1) in the conference this season while also shooting at a high rate (.461). The team struggles on defense however, allowing 71.4 points per game while putting together the worst rebounds per game rate (29.3) in the conference.
Evansville has done a decent job in defending its home court this season with a 10-6 record at the Ford Center. The Purple Aces proved on Tuesday that with their offense they can play with anyone in the conference and against a Missouri State team that won't be able to keep up offensively, the Purple Aces should end the season on a high note.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Evansville 79, Missouri State 69
02/25 10:56:10 ET