In the 12th game of the Missouri Valley Conference season, SIU's men's basketball team meets Evansville for the first time tonight.
The Purple Aces are much different under first-year head coach Walter McCarty, but the Salukis only remember one thing from last season. That would be the 75-44 blowout at the Ford Center to end the regular season last season. SIU still fell into a tie for second place in the MVC standings, but, even with a lot of those players gone, tonight's game at SIU Arena will have a revenge-like tone.
Here are three things to watch:
No. 1 — The officiating
SIU wants to draw more fouls than it did at Missouri State Wednesday night and defend without fouling. McCarty has been ejected twice this season, including the Aces' last game against Indiana State, an 85-62 blowout.
Evansville also features guard K.J. Riley, a powerful guard who is the Aces' leading scorer at 14.1 points per game in conference play. Riley leads the country in free-throw attempts (188) and is a unique matchup, because he is not a head-faker, shoulder-shaker like Drake expert Reed Timmer was. Riley is primarily a downhill driver, like the Salukis want Sean Lloyd to be.
No. 2 — Salukis hitting the home snooze alert
SIU has trailed by double digits at the half in eight different games this season, three of them at home. The Salukis have been a remarkable second half team, but their chances of winning will go up substantially if they put Evansville on its heels early.
With seven games left in the regular season, SIU is only one loss out of a tie for last place in the Valley. Home games will be important going forward, as the Salukis get three of their next five at SIU Arena.
No. 3 — The 3-point line
SIU wants to hit more 3-pointers and keep Evansville in check behind the arc. The Salukis only took eight attempts at Missouri State, with the Bears' pace, but feel like they can score there against the Aces. SIU enters tonight's game shooting 37.9 percent from behind the arc.
Evansville has shot over 30 3s in a couple games this season, so SIU has to be ready for long rebounds and possible transition opportunities there. The Salukis also have to be aggressive on defense along the perimeter. Opponents are shooting 35.3 percent from the 3 this season, and 37.5 percent in conference play.