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Evansville Purple Aces vs. Butler Bulldogs - 12/21/13

Butler Bulldogs (8-2) at Evansville Purple Aces (6-5)

College Basketball: Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 3:05 pm (Ford Center)

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

TV: None

The Evansville Aces meet head on with an inter-state rival, the Butler Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon in Evansville, Indiana.

These two teams meet about every year and typically find themselves in tight games. Butler is 3-0 vs.  schools from the Hoosier State this season and are primed to get to 4-0. They are arguably the stronger club no matter how it goes down on Saturday. Even with head coach Brad Stevens gone, the gritty style has not left the team and they know how to win.

Evansville Purple Aces vs. Butler Bulldogs - 12/21/13

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulldogs have played a slate of solid teams already which will prepare them well for Big East play. They also took #5 Oklahoma State down to the wire and a good LSU team as well, only to fall two points shy of upset victories. Kellen Dunham is the leading scorer at 19.3 ppg with Khyle Marshall just behind him (17.1). A balanced scoring attack from others has them outscoring opponents by over 12 per game. The area of weakness is on the free throw stripe, as they are only 66% on the season. They have the rebounding edge over Evansville, who plays with a relatively small line-up.

The Aces from Evansville just lost in a game in which they just didn’t seem to bring much energy at home to a struggling Jackson State team. Their lack of containment of JSU’s rebounding machine led to many offensive rebounds. Other times, the Aces have looked like they can battle with really good teams, as they lost @ Murray St. and Xavier – games in which they had the lead in the 2nd half. Sophomore guard DJ Balentine has become a Valley star already (23 ppg) as he tries to replace the offensive punch from last season with Evansville superstar Colt Ryan who graduated last season. They pretty much live and die with how Balentine plays, as an off night could spell trouble for Evansville. They are a good free throw shooting team and hit often from the floor (48% field goal %).

Let’s see if Evansville can recover from their lapse the other night in a surprising loss to Jackson St. Traditionally these are close games, but Butler has so many weapons and they are good at the little things, which could cause fits for the Aces. I think Evansville stay close - maybe even tied at the half, but the scrappier Bulldogs might pull away in the second half. The disparity in talent and even height should be enough for Butler to cover, though these teams usually play in tight games.

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