Loyola Chicago (7-10, 2-3 MVC) will try for its first back-to-back wins since mid-December this weekend. Saturday afternoon, the Ramblers will play at Evansville (8-10, 1-4 MVC).
The Aces started poorly in conference play but looked improved in their recent road trip. Last Saturday, they defeated Southern Illinois one game after the Salukis won at Loyola. The Aces then took Illinois State to overtime Wednesday but lost, 79-78.
Evansville boasts one of the Missouri Valley’s best players in sophomore D.J. Balentine. Balentine showed signs of a good future, but he has still exceeded expectations in his second year.
The 6’2″ combo-guard is averaging 22.4 points and 4.2 assists. He also shoots 43.8% from downtown.
Balentine is Evansville’s best talent and most dangerous threat, but the Aces are not a one-man show.
A deep backcourt surrounds Balentine.
Freshman guard Duane Gibson is one of the top competitors with Milton Doyle for MVC Freshman of the Year. Gibson is averaging 7.1 points and 4.4 assists while shooting 42.9% from the field.
Gibson missed nearly off of the Aces’ game Wednesday, playing only the first three minutes.
Evansville SID Bob Pristash said Gibson “had a little stomach bug” Wednesday but is recovered and ready to go against Loyola.
The Aces possess another high-quality freshman in Blake Simmons. Simmons averages 9.2 points and 2.4 dimes per game, and he shoots 37.7% beyond the arc.
In his last three games, Simmons has recorded 14 points per.
Sophomore Adam Wing is having a breakout season with 8.8 points per game on 45.8% shooting. In about half the playing time last year, Wing averaged only 2.7 points.
The Aces also have a talented forward in sophomore Egidijus Mockevicius. Mockevicius is dangerous when he’s on the floor, averaging 8.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per contest. He also shoots better than 60% from the field.
However, Mockevicius struggles with foul trouble. He has been called for 4.3 fouls per game the last three outings.
Last time out, Loyola received big performances from Doyle and sophomore Devon Turk in a win against Drake. The Ramblers blew past Drake in the second half to win, 70-60.
If the Ramblers get a victory Saturday, they will be 3-3 entering a home stand with games against Indiana State and Northern Iowa.
Saturday’s tip off is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT.