EVANSVILLE — The University of Evansville men’s basketball team is going through one of the toughest times of the season.
The Purple Aces are in the middle of four games in five days, with Thanksgiving being their only day off between games in Central Florida and the three-game Hostile Hoops Community Classic in Savannah, Georgia. The streak will test the EU in a number of areas and could give coach David Ragland an opportunity to deepen his rotation.
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UE will also have the chance to play against similar competitors in the middle and lower parts of the Missouri Valley Conference. The Aces were picked to finish last in the Valley, but showed flashes of a team that could finish higher than that, especially on the defensive end. Ragland emphasized the need to put this together for 40 minutes. UE did it against Miami (Ohio) in the season opener and in the flash against Saint Louis, but have struggled in more recent games.
As the Aces head to Savannah, let’s take a look at what you need to know about the multi-team event:
Who is on the ground?
- Folder: 1-3
- KenPom: 195
- Five planned departures: Isaiah Moore, Tyrell Jones, Greg Parham, Owen White, Kevin Samuel
The Aces face what will likely be their toughest test of the weekend against the Jaguars, who are coming off a 21-win season. While things haven’t gone South Alabama’s way so far, there’s a lot to build on, especially Isaiah Moore.
Transfer graduate Franklin Pierce is the seventh-most-used player in the nation, according to KenPom, and is averaging 19.5 points. Seven-foot center Kevin Samuel and Greg Parham both average more than 10 points.
The EU turnover-focused defense could have problems against the Jaguars, who are No. 33 in the country in turnover percentage. Despite this, South Alabama is not a great shooting team and has yet to hit the 75-point mark. When playing against DI, the Jaguars are 0-3.
The Jaguars struggled to allow offensive rebounds, but other than that, their defense kept them in games. UE and RMU are similar in terms of style of play and where each team is strong, making it the game to watch for both in Georgia.
- Record: 2-2
- KenPom: 289
- Projected starting five: Enoch Cheeks, Kahliel Spear, Josh Corbin, Jackson Last, Stephaun Walker
Colonials are slightly more balanced than southern Alabama with several major contributors. All regular Colonial starters are averaging more than six points per game.
Offensively, RMU struggled. His two wins are against non-D-1 opponents and he’s only scored 53 and 51 points in losses to Ohio State and Dayton, respectively. Their defensive effort has kept them alive against the Flyers, but their offense is struggling to find any real rhythm.
This could create back-and-forth play.
- Record: 0-4
- Ken Pom: 235
- Five departures planned: Caleb Fields, TJ Long, Jake Wojcik, Allan Jeanne-Rose, Supreme Cook
If any team needs to build momentum in Savannah, it’s Fairfield. The Stags struggled on both ends, with their four losses all by 12 points or more.
Like South Alabama, Fairfield was successful in controlling the ball. The Stags are No. 96 in offensive turnover percentage, but despite not giving up possession, they struggle to hit shots, ranking No. 341 in field goal percentage. Supreme Cook and Caleb Fields are Fairfield’s biggest contributors, averaging over 13 points.
The Stags dealt with injuries early in the season which could be the reason for some of their struggles. It also forced Fairfield to play a deep rotation, with nine players playing more than 30% of available minutes.
The Aces could have success from deep, as the Stags are No. 349 in 3-point defense, although UE struggled from the perimeter.
What Aces Can Gain From a Tournament-Style Weekend
Chance to shoot better
The EU has had growing pains under Ragland so far. The freshman coach praised his team’s shooting ability, but the Aces struggled on the field. Matches against three teams of similar levels could see EU improve. Aces must be a better shooting team to participate in the MVC.
The EU also has the option of giving more advanced players a chance in the rotation. Both Chris Moncrief and Logan McIntire showed flashes of potential in both exhibits. Zaveion Chism-Okoh hasn’t had much luck yet, but Ragland has praised his athleticism throughout the offseason. Likewise, Matus Malovec hasn’t played since the exhibitions. Given the number of games in a short period, these players could have the chance to play more.
Close play experience
Following the loss to Southern Methodist, Ragland said the experience of playing in close games will be invaluable as the season progresses. Against three similar teams, the Aces could show that they have learned from difficult situations. These games should all be competitive.
“(We’ll) find a way to finally win a close game,” Ragland said after the SMU game, “and once we crack that code watch out cause it’s gonna be good.”
How to watch
All Savannah matches will be streamed at https://www.bethebeast.com/events. The service costs $25.