The University of Evansville women’s basketball team opens its home 2011-12 Missouri Valley Conference schedule Thursday night, hosting the University of Northern Iowa. Tipoff at the Ford Center is at 7:00 p.m.
The Aces look to capture their first Valley win of the season and also snap a four-game losing streak Thursday. UE comes off road losses at Indiana State (73-54) and Illinois State (62-49) in the opening weekend of MVC play. Against the Redbirds on New Year’s Day, four Aces reached double figures led by senior Briyana Blair’s third double-double of the season with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Junior Meagan Collins scored a team-high 13 points, while classmates Samantha Heck added 11 and Taylor Ware logged 10 points and six rebounds. On the season, Heck leads the team with 12.8 points per game along with 6.2 boards. Blair also averages double figures with 10.4 points per game and cleans up the glass with 8.8 rebounds per contest. Collins (8.1 ppg) and Ware (7.1 ppg, 12.0 ppg MVC) have also been steady threats on offense.
The Aces have a chance to even the series with Northern Iowa this season with two wins. The Panthers own a 20-18 advantage in the all-time series and have won the last six meetings. However, UE holds a 10-7 advantage in games played in Evansville and a 3-1 lead in meetings in the Valley Tournament. UE last topped UNI in the 2008 MVC Tournament quarterfinals, 79-56. That victory capped six straight wins over the Panthers, as the Aces earned victories in all three meetings in both the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.
Samantha Heck led Evansville with her eighth and ninth straight double figure games in the opening weekend of Valley play. The junior piloted the Aces’ offense with 16 points and six rebounds at Indiana State and logged 11 points at Illinois State as four Aces reached double-digits in that game. Averaging 13.5 points and 5.0 rebounds on the week, Heck shot 56.3 percent (9-16) from the field and also recorded a team-high four blocks along with three steals and two assists. On the season, Heck averages 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds, and is one of two UE players who have started all 13 games this season.
Briyana Blair recorded her third double-double of the season at Illinois State Sunday afternoon. Blair logged 11 points and 14 rebounds, while also adding six assists and three steals, surpassing the 100 steals and 400 points milestones in her career. In her 42-game career with UE after transferring from the University of Miami, Blair has scored 409 points and made 102 steals.
In three consecutive games, three UE players hit the 100-career assists milestone. Jordan Lewis (101) hit the mark at UT Martin (12/16), Staci Gillum (112) pushed over the mark at Mizzou (12/19), and Sam Heck (101) hit 100 at Indiana State (12/30).
Senior Chelsea Falkenstein will be out the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Falkenstein injured her knee in UE’s game at UT Martin on Dec. 16. Because she missed two games earlier this season due to a concussion suffered versus Ball State on Nov. 29, she is eligible to redshirt. Falkenstein averaged 3.6 points and 5.5 rebounds before the season-ending injury.
Junior Taylor Ware had a strong showing in the first weekend of Valley play, tallying back-to-back double figure games for the first time in her career. Ware averaged a team second-best 12.0 points and 4.5 rebounds, scoring 14 points at Indiana State and 10 at Illinois State. Against the Sycamores, Ware played a career-high 37 minutes, while also knocking down a career-high two three-pointers on 2-of-3 shooting from behind the arc.
When Evansville leads at halftime, the Aces own a 2-0 record. On the other hand, when UE is trailing at the half, they have been unable to recover, going 0-9. The Aces have been tied twice at the break and are 1-1 in that situation.
Rebounding has proven to be one of the most important factors in winning or losing a basketball game. For the Aces, the squad is 3-4 when they win the battle of the boards, but are conversely 0-6 when they get outrebounded.
Evansville has used five different starting lineups this season with point guard Staci Gillum and forward Samantha Heck serving as the only players to start all 13 games. Heck has started 24 games consecutively for the Aces; the longest streak among active players. See page 21 of the game notes for a game-by-game starting lineup breakdown.
The Aces average just 13.6 personal fouls per game, which ranks them 17th nationally. In 9-of-13 games, Evansville has been charged with the same amount or less personal fouls than its opponent. The national leader, Navy, averages 11.3 personal fouls per game.
Sophomore Katie Ellerson had a career game at Mizzou, UE’s last non-conference contest of the year. She scored a career-high 16 points while matching a career-best four three-pointers. Ellerson also knocked down four threes at Missouri State (1/2/11) as a freshman.
Meagan Collins matched a career-high three three-pointers at Illinois State last Sunday, knocking down 3-of-5 from behind the arc. Of the UE players that have attempted at least ten threes, Collins ranks first on the team with a .378 percentage (14-37) from three-point range.
Against UT Martin, Evansville recorded its highest field goal percentage, 55.8 percent (29-for-52), since the Aces shot 56.7 percent against Bradley on Feb. 2, 2004 (81-65 win). It also marked the first times UE has broken the 50 percent mark, since Jan. 26, 2008 when the Aces shot 53.4 percent versus Southern Illinois (77-67 win). On the season, UE is shooting 35.7 UE’s game at UT Martin (12/16) marked the 1,000th game in program history. The Aces currently own a 444-559 (.443) all-time record dating back to the 1969-70 season -- UE’s first year of women’s basketball.
The Aces own a 113-195 all-time record in the Missouri Valley Conference, since joining the league in the 1994-95 season. Evansville looks to get back to the results the Aces had from 2005-08, in which UE had four straight winning records. In the 2008-09 season, UE won the conference tournament despite a 4-14 regular season mark in the MVC, winning four straight contests in St. Charles, Mo.
The Aces’ last win was Dec. 10 when UE earned a 78-48 win over Murray State, their largest victory since beating Southern Illinois on Jan. 15, 2011 by a 34-point margin.
Briyana Blair is the only Ace with a double-double to her resume this season, logging three: Brown (11 pts, 14 rebs) on Nov. 25, Eastern Kentucky (17 pts, 10 rebs) on Dec. 2, and Illinois State (11 pts, 14 rebs) on Jan. 1. Samantha Heck and Meagan Collins are also a part of the three-person club with double-doubles to their name. Collins had one in 2010-11, while Heck had two.
As a team, UE ranks fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference with 3.8 blocks and sixth with 13.2 assists per game. Individually, Briyana Blair and Taylor Ware rank in the top 10 for a number of categories...
Blair – 1st – steals – 2.6/game
Blair – 2nd – assists – 4.3/game
Blair – 3rd – defensive rebounds – 6.8/game
Blair – 3rd – blocks – 1.3/game
Blair – 3rd – rebounding – 8.8/game
Ware – 8th – offensive rebounds – 2.6/game
“The Oties Epps Show,” hosted by Mike Radomski airs live from the UE Bookstore in the Ridgway University Center on the UE campus from 12-12:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons. Fans are invited and encouraged to come out and be a part of the show and meet the coaches and players of the UE women’s basketball team. Fans can also listen in online at both wuev.org and GoPurpleAces.com.
A class of 11 women and men who have made significant contributions to Indiana high school basketball will be welcomed as inductees when the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame celebrates their 11th Women’s Induction Class on April 28, 2012. Among those inductees is UE’s all-time leading scorer, Shelly Brand Adlard. Adlard racked up 1,713 points in her career as a Purple Ace and also graduated as the school’s all-time leader in assists, steals, field goals made, and free throws made. Currently, she still holds the record for field goals (718), now ranks third in assists (448), sixth in steals (164) and seventh in free throws made (277). In addition, she was the NCAA Division I national free throw percentage leader in the 1983-84 season.
Arguably one of the best players to come out of Memorial High School, Mallory Ladd has decided to transfer from Valparaiso University back home to play for Coach Oties Epps and the University of Evansville Purple Aces. Ladd, who scored 1,803 points in her high school career and grabbed a school-record 1,163 rebounds, led Memorial to the 3A state championship with a 28-1 mark in her senior year. She was named Indiana Miss Basketball runner-up and was a first team all-state selection in 2011 by the Associated Press and Hoosier Basketball Magazine. In the first month of the 2011-12 season, the 6’1 freshman forward played in six games with the Crusaders, averaging 10.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, also shooting 91.3 percent (21-23) from the free throw line. As per NCAA transfer rules, Ladd will have to sit out one year, but will be eligible to join the Aces on the court in the second semester of the 2012-13 season.
Oties Epps announced on Nov. 9 the signing of two high school standouts to National Letters of Intent. Guard Laura Friday (Marion, Ind./Marion) and forward Michaela Prough (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point) will make up the Lady Aces’ freshman class for the 2012-13 season.
Senior Staci Gillum and junior Samantha Heck have been named the 2011-12 team captains for the University of Evansville women’s basketball team. Gillum, a native of West Des Moines, Iowa, served as the Purple Aces’ captain and point guard last season, averaging 4.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, playing in all 30 contests. A transfer from Kirkwood Community College, Gillum was also a captain and led the Eagles to a 73-2 overall record and a pair of national titles in her two years, while also earning NJCAA All-America honors. Heck, an Auxvasse, Mo. native, led the team with 4.9 rebounds per game and finished second on the squad with 9.3 points per game in her sophomore season, while also recording two double-doubles. As a freshman, Heck recorded over 200 points and 100 rebounds in her rookie season, ranking second on the team in both categories at 7.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.