Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Aces Are Facing New Challenge ; UE to Open MVC Season at Drake

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Aces Are Facing New Challenge ; UE to Open MVC Season at Drake

Article excerpt

The fourth-youngest team in the nation tackled road trips to Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Cincinnati but not without its fair share of struggles - lost leads, close losses and blowouts. Now the University of Evansville men's basketball team is faced with a new challenge and yet another road trip. The Aces (7-6) will open the Missouri Valley Conference schedule on New Year's day in Des Moines, Iowa, facing Drake (9-3), one of the most surprising teams in the league.

"Conference is always fun," said sophomore guard D. J. Balentine. "I loved conference as a freshman, just the impact it had on everybody, the most focused everybody is, because conference is always a big thing for every team in the nation."

With almost half of the squad new to the Valley, the upcoming slate is more daunting than the nonconference.

"I think we're ready to start conference," said freshman guard Jaylon Brown after Saturday's game. "Like coach said, it's go time. It's time to get more serious."

Added Balentine: "I've been talking to most of them, telling them how exciting it is and how well they scout - they know every move, so you have to be prepared."

Their first task will be a bit tougher than usual with Drake off to one of the more surprising starts to the season among MVC teams. First-year head coach Ray Giacoletti has guided the Bulldogs to their best start since the 2008-09 season thanks to a dominating presence on the boards and good outside shooting. The Bulldogs have shot 44.2 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in their last two games.

After two tough losses to then-No. 23 Iowa and New Mexico State in overtime, the Bulldogs have won their last three games, including a road win at IUPUI.

"They're playing with tons of confidence right now," said head coach Marty Simmons. "Coach Giacoletti has done a terrific job. They're very, very well-coached, (Richard) Carter has had an outstanding season to this point, (and) they have two guards who are great shooters. …

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