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Evansville Purple Aces vs. Wichita State Shockers - 2/16/14

Wichita State Shockers (26-0) at Evansville Purple Aces (11-15)

College Basketball: Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 5:00 pm (Ford Center)

The Line: Evansville Purple Aces +12.5 -- Over/Under: TBA See the Latest Odds

TV: ESPN3

The 2nd-ranked Wichita State Shockers hope to continue their historic run at perfection when they travel to the Ford Center to play the Evansville Aces on Sunday afternoon.

Evansville barely escaped in their last game at home against Illinois State, as they were cruising with a 24-point lead with about 10 minutes to go in regulation before everything started to go wrong for the Bears and everything went in the hoops for the Redbirds. It took an overtime session for the Aces to trump the Birds, as sophomore DJ Balentine sizzled the nets for 38 points. This is nothing new for the sophomore in a breakout season, as he leads the league with nearly 24 ppg and is arguably the best pure shooter in the Valley. Big men Blake Simmons (9.8 ppg) and Egidiju Mockevicius (9.6 ppgs) are next in scoring, but they have trouble getting much production on the perimeter other than Balentine. The Aces are shooting 46.3% from the field, 37% from three-point land, and 7.16% from the foul stripe on the season. They are not a strong defending team, surrendering 74 ppg, and have a tendency to play soft during stretches of games, especially on the road.

Evansville Purple Aces vs. Wichita State Shockers - 2/16/14

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Shockers have a little work left to do in order to wind up 31-0 for the regular season, as they have 5 games remaining (3 road games / 2 home games). And they know that although the road games are against sub .500 teams, they are going to be a battle. The first contest between these teams saw Evansville bolt out to a convincing double-digit lead in the first stanza before the tides turned. Wichita St. eventually won by 14 points as the Aces covered the spread by a few points.  The Shockers defend and rebound as well as any team in the country, which has covered their average shooting percentage of 44.9%.  and 33.4% three-point shooting. They do shoot free throws pretty wellat 73% – especially in crunch-time of games. The scoring threats are plentiful on this team with Valley POY frontrunner Cleanthony Early with 16.3 ppg and 6.2 boards per game (team leader in those categories). There are 3 guys who handle the ball extremely well and all have better than a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio (Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet, and Tekele Cotton), and those guys round out the double-digit scorers for the Shox. The poise on this team is exceptional – maybe a benefactor of having gone to the Final 4 last season.

I had trouble figuring out the Shockers in my first few games I did write-ups for, but have nailed the last few, as they just haven’t been covering the spread lately with a huge target on their back and the good possibility of having an off-night and the great amount of mental pressure of still being undefeated, even though this team is so poised. The line is a bit high considering how competitive the Aces were in Wichita’s own building. While I don’t see an upset here, this game should end in a single-digit victory for the Shockers with the home crowd behind Evansville. Another angle would be to play Evansville first half +6 if available, as Wichita State plays much stronger in the 2nd half of games.

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Evansville Aces +12.5

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