No one at the University of Evansville basketball practice facility seemed too bummed about losing Saturday’s regular season finale to Northern Illinois. No one seemed upset that seniors D.J. Balentine, Egidijus Mockevicius, and Adam Wing didn’t end their Ford Center careers in victorious fashion.
They were too focused on preparing for the Missouri Valley Conference tournament this weekend in St. Louis.
“We’re proud of our regular season, finishing in second place but we didn’t meet our goal,” said Aces junior guard Blake Simmons, who averaged 5.8 points per game. “Our goal was to finish at the top of the league and that should make us hungry going into St. Louis.”
As disappointed as the Aces are in not finishing the regular season in first, expectations haven’t changed.
“We’ve wanted to win it before the season started, and that’s what we plan on doing,” said Balentine.
Balentine, who broke the program’s scoring record this season, reflected on his time so far at Evansville, and said his final shot is the Aces’ best one in a while.
“Out of the four years I’ve been here this is the best chance we’ve had at winning it, and I think everyone knows that,” said Balentine.
In fact, no one on the Aces current roster has even made it to the conference tournament semi finals. Wing said the regular season record is proof that this team can make some noise in St. Louis.
“Hopefully this year finishing second will give us loads of confidence just knowing we can get things done if we’re playing our best basketball,” said Wing.
Now is as good a time as any for the Aces to start playing their best basketball. They pretty much have to win the conference tournament if they want to qualify for the NCAA tournament when March 13th rolls around.
You would think players would be nervous about that. Instead, they say they’re embracing the situation.
“At least we have that opportunity. I think our guys embrace it,” said head coach Mary Simmons. “I don’t think they look at it in that way. it’s more of a positive, ‘can’t wait’ type of situation.”
The Aces will have to wait, as they don’t play until Friday at 6:05 PM at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. They also have to wait to see who their opponent is between Missouri State and Drake, who play Thursday at 8:35.