The Providence Friars head West to play in the 2015 Wooden Legacy Tournament in California over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The Friars will play 3 games while they are out there with the first being on Thanksgiving night against the Evansville Purple Aces of the Missouri Valley Conference. Providence is 1-0 all-time against Evansville and 5-8 all-time against the MVC. Games 1 and 2 take place at Titan Gym on the campus of Cal State Fullerton. Providence will play either Arizona and Santa Clara in the second game to be played on Friday. The final game of the tournament will take place on Sunday at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
1. Winning the Turnover Battle
Providence is +34 in the turnover battle through 4 games this season. The Friars have converted their 71 turnovers into 87 points, which is also a +42 in Points Off Turnovers. Evansville is +14 on turnovers through 3 games and they are +8 in Points Off Turnovers but that stat is aided by a +17 against NAIA Marian. While the Purple Aces haven't been overly turnover-prone so far this season, the Friars have been adept at forcing turnovers with Kris Dunn leading the way with 5.3 steals/game. Dunn will be hawking the smaller Evansville backcourt all night and looking to get into passing lanes as he has been doing early in the season for the Friars.
2. Keeping Balentine in Check
D.J. Balentine is a scorer. He averaged over 20 points/game in both his sophomore and junior seasons and is averaging 21.3 points/game so far in his senior season. Balentine is the key player that Ed Cooley and his coaching staff will focus on in their scouting report. That means Junior Lomomba will likely draw the assignment of guarding the crafty veteran guard. Lomomba did a good job on NJIT's Damon Lynn and Cooley indicated postgame that Lynn only got going late in the game when Lomomba was switched off of Lynn. Having Dunn in the mix to lock down a scorer like Balentine is a nice luxury should Cooley need it but with Balentine's uncanny ability to get to the free throw line early and often it will be more important for Dunn to stay out of foul trouble.
3. Matching Up With Mockevicius
Egidijus Mockevicius is off to a hot start for the Purple Aces. He is tied with Balentine for the team lead in scoring at 21.3 points/game and is averaging an impressive 13.0 rebounds/game. Mockevicius is backed up primarily by 6'8 forward David Howard which means that beyond Howard and the 6'10 Mockevicius there isn't a lot of height on Evansville's frontline. Sergej Vucetic is 7'1 but the Nebraska transfer has only played 7 minutes this season and they all came against NAIA Marian. Providence has already had a matchup against a girthy center when Illnois' Mike Thorne, Jr. came to the Dunkin' Donuts Center on November 18th and Thorne ended up being a non-factor in 13 minutes due to foul trouble. Ben Bentil and Quadree Smith will be looking to do more of the same. Belmont had success in Evansville's most recent game going at the rim and scoring from the block when Howard was subbed in for Mockevicius.