SIU men's basketball coach Barry Hinson has seen the tape. Evansville guard Ryan Taylor makes easy shots, and the kind you watch with great admiration for the defense, and say to yourself "Well, that's about the best you can do."
"I don't know if you can make him uncomfortable," Hinson said, as his team prepared to take on the 6-foot-6 Taylor and the rest of the 10-5 Purple Aces Wednesday night. "It's hard to make guys uncomfortable that have the green light, that shoot 17-20 times a game, because they have the backing of the staff and the players, that if they miss two, three or even four in a row, they just keep shooting."
Taylor, who is averaging 21.3 points per game after getting 20 in Evansville's 66-59 loss at Loyola, has 140 attempts in eight starts this season. The 195-pound junior righty has taken more than a third of them from behind the 3-point arc, where he is 21 of 52 (40.4 percent) and one reason Evansville (0-2 in MVC) leads the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (45.5).
Taylor can shoot over shorter defenders, even between defenders, and is sleek enough to get around others. An 84.4 percent free-throw shooter, he's close to an automatic two points if he draws a foul, too.
"He's a good scorer, so we're going to try to pressure him and get him off spots, and get him out of his game," SIU guard Sean Lloyd said.
Blake Simmons, back from a knee injury that took him out of the 2016-17 season, is 31 of 62 behind the arc and 48.1 percent from the field this season (62 of 129). No other Purple Ace even has more than 80 shots other than Duane "Boo" Gibson, who has 85. Evansville has a history of running plays mostly for one individual, and has produced the last four MVC scoring champions (D.J. Balentine three straight years and Jaylon Brown last season).
Dru Smith, who missed four games because of injury, gives Evansville a big defender on the perimeter and another elite shooter. Smith is 14 of 25 from the 3-point line (56 percent). Freshman guard Noah Frederking, from nearby Okawville, is 15 of 37 (40.5 percent) behind the arc and has started seven of 15 games.
As many games SIU (9-6, 1-1 MVC) has lost due to injury (29 and counting), Evansville, which got all five starters back for the first time since Nov. 22 last week, has lost 14. Taylor missed seven games, Smith missed four and Gibson was out for three.
Up front, Evansville starts late signee Dainius Chatkevicius, a 6-9, 240-pound Lithuanian who is basically in to defend and rebound. Chatkevicius averages 5.7 points and 5.3 rebounds a game and shoot 59.7 percent. Senior center Dalen Traore, a 6-9, 230-pounder from the Ivory Coast, and redshirt freshman forward John Hall (3.3 points, 2.8 rebounds a game) are the Aces' frontcourt backups.
While SIU continues to try to re-define its players roles (backup forward Jonathan Wiley is expected to miss some time after hyperextending his knee against Drake), Evansville knows what it is. Taylor and Simmons take the majority of the shots, but Smith, Gibson, Frederking, Chatkevicius and K.J. Riley gives the Aces a lot of talent around them.
"They've got great complimentary players," Hinson said. "One thing Marty (Simmons) has always done a great job of, he's always got guys that know their roles."
Evansville won its first five games, four of them at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana, and beat two non-Division I programs in Oakland City and Midway. The RPI is a funny thing, but after road losses at fourth-ranked Duke and Loyola, and a home loss to Illinois State, which is 66th in the RPI, Evansville sports an RPI of 106 heading into Wednesday's game.
SIU is at 154 after losing at home to Drake Sunday. The Salukis' strength of schedule, 185, is the fifth-worst in the Valley behind Bradley (303), Loyola (293), Valparaiso (270) and Drake (212).
Scouting the Evansville Purple Aces (10-5, 0-2 MVC)
Hometown: Evansville, Indiana
Coach: Marty Simmons (177-165 at UE, 276-237 overall)
Leading scorers: G Ryan Taylor 21.3 ppg., G Dru Smith 12.6 ppg., G Blake Simmons 11.9 ppg., G Duane Gibson 7.7 ppg.
Leading rebounders: C Dainius Chatkevicius 5.3 rpg., G Dru Smith 3.6 rpg.
Notes: Evansville traditionally passes the ball well, but only two players have a good number of assists more than turnovers. Smith has 57 assists and 34 turnovers, and Riley has 37 assists and 30 turnovers. As a team, the Aces have 204 assists and 204 turnovers on the season. ... While the Aces are shooting a national-best 45.5 percent from the 3-point line this season, they are just 6 of 24 behind the arc in league play (25 percent). Opponents are 17 of 39 behind the arc in Valley play (43.6 percent). ... Evansville has won four straight games at SIU Arena heading into Wednesday's game. SIU is 6-2 at home this season. ... The Salukis are 9-0 when holding their opponents to under 70, and 0-6 when their opponents score 70 or more. Drake beat SIU 70-67 when Armon Fletcher's potentially-tying 3-point attempt from the top of the key hit the window and rimmed out at the horn. ... SIU has four players averaging double figures, but none in the top 10 in the MVC.