▪ When any team plays Evansville, the conversation is always “How do you defend D.J. Balentine?” It’s an obvious question, because Balentine is a player who must be defended.
When WSU plays Evansville, however, the conversation might need to switch to “How do you defend Ron Baker?”
Baker has played four games against the Aces and averages 18.8 points while making 52 percent of his shots and 41.7 percent (10 of 24) of his threes. He is 15 of 18 from the foul line.
Baker is a tough match-up for many teams for many reasons. Why is such a tough match-up for the Aces? Most likely because the roster is filled with players who either a step slow (Blake Simmons, Adam Wing) to guard him on perimeter or two inches too short (Balentine, Jaylon Brown) to get in Baker’s way. He gets to the foul line by driving past players who aren’t used to guarding on the perimeter and bullying smaller players.
▪ WSU guard Fred VanVleet got in foul trouble and played only 17 minutes in the first meeting, a 61-41 WSU win on Jan. 17 at the Ford Center.
While Baker ran the team for some of the game, Tekele Cotton played a good amount at point guard and showed off his versatility at a spot we don’t often think of him playing. He handed out four assists with one turnover in 34 minutes.
▪ Evansville comes to WSU on a three-game win streak and the recent play of senior forward Jaylon Moore is helping. He didn’t get off the bench in two early MVC games. He didn’t play more than 11 minutes in four straight games before his playing time went up.
After playing 28 minutes in a loss at Bradley, he played 24 in wins over Missouri State and Southern Illinois and 13 in a win over Drake. In those four games, he is 12 of 16 from the field with an average of 7.0 points, almost double his season average.
“He’s really played athletic in these last few games,” Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. “He did what you’d like to see seniors do. He just seems to be playing athletic and playing with a little bit more confidence.”