After a hard fought battle against UConn that came one Yogi Ferrell mid-range jumper short of 6-0 the Hoosiers are looking to get back on track against an opponent that has all the right tools to really rain on Indiana's parade early in the year. Evansville at this point is probably a better squad than the Washington team we saw last Thursday and has the potential to make some noise in their conference season.
Evansville is a very young basketball team, checking in as the fourth youngest in the nation. However, don't let their youth fool you, their abilities are enough to make up for it. Currently Evansville and Indiana State are the only two teams in the nation that have hit more than half of their three point attempts on the season and the U of E is tops in making nearly 55% of their three point shots. That's intimidating. They're a very good shooting team and teams that get hot from range have a much higher chance at pulling off big upsets.
Luckily for Indiana, Evansville doesn't really shoot that many threes. They're just capable of sinking them when they do. Only two players on the team have even attempted more than 10 three point shots through 5 games this season. Only 5 consistent minutes receivers have attempted even one. Overall, the Aces have attempted 53 three point shots. Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey combined have shot 60. So yes, I know I was the one that initially brought up the three point shooting and now I'm telling you don't worry about it. But the point is, keep an eye on it. The atmosphere is there for UE to start making it rain.
Unfortunately for Evansville they don't offer much in the size department. Their top 25 offense comes on the backs of strong perimeter players and getting to the basket from outside. Sophomore DJ Balentine offers the most for the Aces coming into tonight. He's currently playing 90% of the team's minutes at guard and is their go to guy. At 1.47 points per possession and usage rate of 27.6% he's been a real bright spot early in the season. He's shooting 78% from the floor, 65% from three, has a high assist rate and a low turnover rate. The dude, is going to be gunning for Indiana tonight and he's shown in the young season he has the tools to do it. He didn't get a lot of attention from the big schools in state during the recruiting process, so I'm sure he's going to come out looking to make Indiana pay for that slight.
Along with Balentine are freshmen starters Duane Gibson, Jaylon Brown and Blake Simmons. All are local regional talent. Simmons hales from Castle High School in Evansville, Brown was Gary Harris' back court battery mate for 3 years at Hamilton Southeastern in Fischers and Gibson comes out of Cleveland. Simmons and Gibson have started their college careers keeping pretty close pace with Balentine. Each has posted an offensive rating of over 125. Brown has struggled more so than the others with only a ORtg of 88. Toss in 6-4 Sophomore Adam Wing in the mix and that's your "starting 5" for Evansville. None of them come in over 6-5 and only the 6-0 Brown and 6-3 Gibson consistently take shots at the rim.
As for the size that we're likely to see Evansville try and throw out there to compensate battling with 4 starters shorter than Indiana's second shortest guy, we're going to see doses of 6-7 Jaylon Moore, 6-8 Ryan Sawvell and 6-10 Egidijus Mockevicius. Sawvell is actually going to grab the start for Evansville. But Sawvell pretty equally splits time with Moore and Mockevicius, which is why Jaylon Brown gets quite a few more minutes at 6-0 than any post guys. Sawvell has been UE's best post to date and is used quite well. However, he's skinny for a high major post player and is going to be giving up 3 inches and 40 pounds to Noah Vonleh. The 6-10 Mockevicius matches up better physically, but he's been sidelined the last few days with the flu and is incredibly foul prone.
In the end, this is going to come down to Indiana physically enforcing their will on a much smaller and more finesse team. UE's defense is really bad and they've yet to face a team with the kind of size that Indiana has. Their 101st ranking in defensive rebounding isn't going to cut it if they want to keep the 8th best offensive rebounding team in Indiana from countless second chance points. Look for Indiana to try and find a way to click on offense while continuing to work out their defensive rotations.
I know some of you are probably already to call it a year on the Jeremy Hollowell as a guard experiment, but this will be another great game for him to try and work out the kinks. So far it hasn't been pretty, but what did we expect? Look for Troy Williams and Vonleh to have big games as they look to prove something rebounding off of poor games against UConn. Expect Indiana to go to the rim early and often. I wouldn't be shocked if they don't make more than 5 field goals outside of the lane. They're going to be in attack mode tonight.
Pomeroy projects this as a 12 point Indiana win. I expect it to be higher. This will be a nice tune up for Syracuse coming up next Tuesday. Look for Indiana to roll with another 100 point night. I would like to see Indiana hold Evansville to under 80 in a high possession game. If they can do that while breaking the century mark, I'll feel solid about our chances going forward.