GAME NOTES: The Evansville Purple Aces welcome the Butler Bulldogs to the Ford Center for a non-league tilt on Saturday afternoon.
Butler has been idle since notching a 76-70 win over Purdue in last weekend's Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis. The victory was the third in a row for the Bulldogs, who have already beaten three teams from state of Indiana this season and are looking to make Evansville the fourth.
However, that won't happen easily against a UE squad that is 5-1 at home. But that loss came in the Purple Aces' most recent contest last Saturday against Jackson State, 57-51. They have lost five of their last six overall.
Evansville has a 62-56 lead in the all-time series, although Butler has won 12 of the last 15 meetings.
The Bulldogs blocked a season-high nine shots in their triumph over Purdue. It was a back-and-forth affair until Butler put together a 14-1 second-half spurt to pull away. Elijah Brown kick started the run with a go-ahead layup to make it a 50-49 game, and the Bulldogs never trailed again. Kellen Dunham led the way with a game-high 25 points, while Khyle Marshall added 18 points, and Erik Fromm finished with 14. Dunham has been on his game lately, averaging 22.3 points over the team's last four outings. The sophomore guard was named this week's Big East Conference Player of the Week as he also scored a game-high 15 points in just 19 minutes against Manchester.
At the other end of the floor, Evansville is hoping to get its offense in gear after shooting just 34 percent from the floor and making only 1-of-12 3-point tries in the loss to Jackson State. Egidiju Mockevicius led the way with 16 points and seven rebounds, while D.J. Balentine joined him in double figures with 12 points, albeit on just 3-of-13 shooting. Balentine is shooting 40 percent from 3-point range while averaging a robust 22.8 ppg this season, which is tops in the Missouri Valley Conference. However, he hasn't gotten a whole lot of help from his supporting cast, as only Mockevicius joins him in double figures, with 10.0 points and a team-best 6.4 rebounds per tilt.
Evansville opened the Ford Center with an overtime victory against Butler in the 2011-12 season opener. However, duplicating that outcome will be a tall order against the surging Bulldogs, who have a significant size advantage in this matchup.
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