The Evansville Purple Aces were exposed in a few ways in their 74-64 loss to the Providence Friars on Thanksgiving. It's the first loss of the season for the Aces. So what went wrong?
Started game: Hot. Finished game: Not.
When Evansville ran its offense the right way early with efficient, timely shots, it had success. Evansville started the game 12-20 from the field, and yet still didn't lead to due partly to turnover and rebounding troubles. The Aces struggled to end the first and start the second. The Purple Aces cooled off as the first half came to a close and were already down 40-32 at the break. With the start of the second half came a stretch in which Evansville didn't score a bucket from the field until the 13:30 mark.
Evansville did find its footing again a bit after it went down 49-32, and was able to bite away small chunks. It just wasn't enough. Though the Aces did finish at a 50 percent clip from the floor, Evansville needed better to defeat coach Ed Cooley's team. Turning the ball over 15 times factored into that as well.
Then there were the inability to establish Egidijus Mockevicius as a go-to option against the Friars early. Evansville's motion offense thrives off of putting shooters in ideal situations with the bigs flashing to the blocks and using space to create easy scoring opportunities. On this night, Mockevicius's stamp on the game was too small early, though he did finish with 13 points and 9 rebounds.
Another fun statistic to add that if isolated, wouldn't lead you to believe that the Purple Aces lost: Evansville assisted on 26 of its 27 made shots.
This wasn't just the Kris Dunn show
Not to let the Big East squad get the attention in this one, but you've got to talk a little bit about the battle of guards like Balentine and Kris Dunn. And though Dunn played well, it was sophomore forward Ben Bentil who caught the Aces off guard. Bentil posted 24 points, 17 of which came in the first half as the Friars established themselves the pace they wanted as the first half wore on. Junior Lomomba added 13 points.
Influence of Balentine waned over game
Maybe it isn't fair to say that Balentine's influence wasn't there so much as he just wasn't in-sync on this night. After hitting two early 3-pointers, Balentine struggled against a more lengthy and athletic Friars team and finished 7-18 from the field. Mislav Brzoja was able to contribute 11 points and 6 assists off the bench, but Evansville needed more from Balentine. No reason to panic for the guard who is averaging 20+ points per game, he just had a few struggles and figures to get back on his game after a few days of rest. Though he did help Evansville keep up its effective motion offense, it just wasn't enough on this night.