Evansville took care of business Tuesday night, and now have a night full of scoreboard watching to do. All the Purple Aces will be watching for the result of the Southern Illinois vs. Illinois State showdown Wednesday night.
The result of that matchup will determine if Evansville will still be in a fight for the No. 2 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament beginning next week. A Southern Illinois win will give Evansville a 2-game cushion entering their final regular season game against a surging Northern Iowa team.
An Illinois State win means that there will still be some more work to do.
That work was fairly easy during Tuesday night's 67-55 win against Bradley which was not as close as the final score indicated. D.J. Balentine scored 22 points and Egidijus Mockevicius had 20 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks. The two stars spent the final few minutes resting on the bench and sharing a laugh, knowing they had the edge in the battle to stay away from Wichita State until the conference tournament finals.
Even with that edge, the Purple Aces will need to find away to close out some of their biggest weaknesses on the floor. The Shockers have, since their two losses, really turned up the defense and crushed their last three opponents by an average of more than 30 points.
That will put a glaring spotlight on Evansville inability to hold on to the ball. Even against Bradley, the Purple Aces turned the ball over on 14 percent of their possessions, and the Braves have one of the worst turnover rates on defense in the league.
Evansville will also need to figure out how to keep their team fresh through the grind of the MVC tournament, especially when they have one of the shortest benches in the country. Marty Simmons will need to find some breaks for his stars, and really stretch the rest of the bench.
All that said, the Purple Aces are in a strong position with their win over Bradley, and no matter the seed, the duo of Balentine and Mockevicius will put on a show in their final games in purple.