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Evansville Purple Aces vs. Northern Iowa Panthers - 1/8/14

Northern Iowa Panthers (7-7) at Evansville Purple Aces (7-8)

College Basketball: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 8:05 pm (Ford Center)

The Line: Evansville Purple Aces +4 -- Over/Under: TBA See the Latest Odds

TV: None

The Evansville Aces try to get in the win column in the Missouri Valley Conference as they play host to the Northern Iowa Panthers on Wednesday night at the Ford Center.

The Aces of Evansville have seemed to trade wins for losses since their loss at Indiana in late November They didn’t put up much of a fight at home vs. Indiana State, who is arguably the 2nd best team in the MVC, but the expectation was a much closer game (Evansville lost by 19). Evansville’s roster is composed of mostly underclassmen, but one of them stands out as their prime playmaker – sophomore DJ Balentine, who carries a 22 ppg average into the game. But his scoring alone has not been enough as no other player averages double-digits. They have a high shooting percentage (47%), but they have deficiencies on the defensive end. They played well enough to beat the likes of Xavier and Murray State on the road, but their defense suffered a letdown in both games to allow both to win by 2 points.

Evansville Purple Aces vs. Northern Iowa Panthers - 1/8/14

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Northern Iowa has gone through a similar trend through their first 14 games – never really getting a winning streak going. They dominated Bradley in the league opener (a 36 point thumping) and then couldn’t hang with the sixth ranked Wichita State in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The junior trio of Deon Mitchell, Seth Tuttle, and Nate Buss account for about half of their scoring. A key to the Panthers success in past seasons – of which they’ve had many in recent years – has been their ability to knock down the 3-ball. But they have been inconsistent so far, hitting only 28% from downtown. Another staple to their success in league play is tenacious defense. In their first two games they have only allowed an average of 57 points, and with this kind of defense, they will be tough to beat on any given night. Head coach Ben Jacobsen has consistently won games in the league and has gotten the Panthers into the top half of the conference in almost every season (in his 8th season at UNI) and they have reached 18 wins in every season.

This is a very tough game to call with the current line. I believe UNI is a better team, but Marty Simmons’ Aces normally play well at home in the conference. Last game was an exception, and I think the Aces play tougher and will take advantage of a Northern Iowa team that is not as strong or consistent as in recent years. The key is getting more scoring than just their leading scorer DJ Balentine.

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Evansville +4

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