The Challenge in Music City is on tap for the University of Evansville Men’s Basketball team as they take on three strong opponents in the tournament this weekend at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium.
Friday will mark the opening day of the event as the Purple Aces take on Toledo before a Saturday match-up against UNC Wilmington. Both of those games begin at 5:00 p.m. On Sunday, the Aces wrap up the tournament with a 5:30 p.m. game against Middle Tennessee State. There will be no live streaming during the tournament, but each game can be head on 91.5 WUEV and online at WUEV.org.
Behind 25 points from senior Jaylon Brown, the Purple Aces earned a 69-56 win over Morehead State on Saturday. UE shot 61.9% for the game and 78.9% in the second half on their way to the win. For the first time in three games this season, UE won the rebounding battle, 31-24. Ryan Taylor registered 13 points in the game while Dalen Traore set his career mark with nine.
Entering Saturday’s game against Morehead State, Brown’s career-high in scoring was 19 points, a mark he hit on five occasions. He was finally able to eclipse that against Morehead State, posting 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting and pushed his season average to 21 points per game, second in the MVC. Brown has also been logging minutes at an unbelievable rate, playing 36.3 per game, tops in the Valley and 2.5 minutes more than anyone else. A 50.8% shooter last season, Brown stands at an even 58.5% through the opening three games.
Junior transfer Traore became a crowd favorite with his efforts against Morehead State. The forward scored nine points and hauled in four rebounds in 22 minutes of work. His efforts helped the Aces overcome the MSU rally on its way to the second win of the season.
Since going 2-14 from the field against Louisville, Ryan Taylor has kicked it into high gear in the last two games. In two home outings, Taylor has hit 10-of-15 shots overall and is 7/11 from outside. For the season, Taylor is second on the team, averaging 13 points per contest.
Evansville opens up the Challenge in Music City on Friday against Toledo. The Rockets are 2-1 on the young season, dropping their opener at Saint Joseph’s before defeating Youngstown State and Wright State; they play at Middle Tennessee this evening. Jonathan Williams has been their top performer, leading the Rockets with 21.7 points per game; Steve Taylor Jr. is just behind him at 16.7. Toledo has averaged an impressive 87.0 points per game, tied for 44th in the nation. UE and Toledo have met on four occasions with the Aces having a 3-1 lead in the series; the last meeting was an 89-72 Aces win in 1989.
On Saturday, Evansville takes on UNC Wilmington in the first meeting between the schools. The Seahawks come to Nashville with a 3-0 mark, earning wins over Claflin, Eastern Kentucky, and East Tennessee State. Chris Flemmings is the leading scorer for UNCW, standings at 20.3 PPG with C.J. Bryce just behind at 19 points.
In the final match-up of the weekend, the Aces face Middle Tennessee State. The squads have met just twice in their histories with each team winning on their home floor, including an 81-79 UE win in 2010. MTSU is 2-1 with wins over Milligan College and Murray State; they play host to Toledo on Tuesday night. Their leading scorer is JaCorey Williams, who has recorded 20.3 PPG.
The series between Evansville and Middle Tennessee State is always an emotional one as MTSU was the scheduled opponent when the plane carrying the Aces team to the game crashed shortly after takeoff at Dress Regional Airport in Evansville on Dec. 13, 1977. All aboard the plane were killed and are honored in the UE Athletics Hall of Fame as well as an on-campus memorial at UE.