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November 10, 2012
Head coach: Marty Simmons (6th season at Evansville) - 154-145 career record in 11 seasons: 66-88 in five seasons at Evansville; 88-57 in five seasons at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Began his collegiate playing career at Indiana under Bob Knight before transferring to Evansville, where he played for former Knight player/assistant Jim Crews. Simmons averaged 22.4 and 25.9 points per game during his final two seasons in Evansville.
You should know: That the Purple Aces defeated No. 15 Creighton, 65-57, and Butler, 80-77, in overtime during the 2011-12 campaign. A year earlier, Evansville won at Butler in overtime, 71-68, while also knocking off MVC one-two regular-season finishers Northern Iowa and Wichita State?Evansville shot .391 from three-point range last season and .764 from the free-throw line?Guards Colt Ryan and Ned Cox shot .844 and .882 respectively from the free-throw line?Troy Taylor, a 6-foot-0 sophomore guard, was second on the team in offensive rebounds with 41.
Top losses: F Kenny Harris (11.2 ppg., 4.5 rpg., 1.7 apg.), G Denver Holmes (11.3 ppg., 3.5 apg.)
Top players: The star of the show is 6-foot-5, 200-pound senior guard Colt Ryan, who averaged 20.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists on Evansville's .500 club in 2011-12. Ryan made 184-of-218 free throws and led the team with 74 three-pointers made.
He's surrounded by a capable group of guards, including 6-foot-1 senior Ned Cox, who averaged 9.2 points and 3.0 assists per game. Troy Taylor, a 6-foot-0 sophomore, is a versatile player who averaged 5.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in 2011-12.
The Purple Aces need help up front after the loss of Kenny Harris (11.2 ppg., 4.5 rpg.), who paced them in offensive rebounds (45) and blocked shots (19) while finishing second on the team in three-pointers made with 38. Simmons will be counting on 6-foot-8, 200-pound sophomore Ryan Sawvell to pick up where he left off as a rookie when he scored at a 6.2 clip with 4.0 rebounds per game.
Also returning is 6-foot-6 sophomore Jordan Jahr (5.8 ppg.) and 6-foot-3 senior Lewis Jones (5.3 ppg.).
Brey on Evansville: "Playing an Evansville team that won 16 games last year and has a veteran perimeter is an unbelievable challenge for us on Saturday.
"When you look at that veteran perimeter coming back, I said to our team, 'All I know is last year in the opening game, this Evansville nucleus beat Butler, and then beat the heck out of a very good Creighton team.' This is a team that won 16 games last year that is trending up.
"I think Marty (Simmons) has done an unbelievable job building his program. I watched tape of them in their exhibition and I was very impressed with them."
Evansville's style of play: "Marty is a Coach Knight guy. They're going to grind you up. We're going to be guarding a lot of screens off the ball. The interesting thing about Evansville, you don't see many ball screens because they're more of a pure motion, Indiana, Knight-kind of motion, but there are a lot of roadblocks, and their perimeter is very experienced. They've got a kid who can really score the ball. He can put 25 up easy.
"When you have really good veteran guards, you've got a chance any night. They can shoot the ball, they make shots from out there, they know how they play?They're working in some younger frontline guys, but it's a heckuva challenge for us. It's a good, tough first game."
On possibly taking Evansville for granted: "We're not good enough to be looking past anybody. We had to battle to beat Cardinal Stritch. Who are we to look past anybody? Whoever wins Saturday, it's a quality win because I think Evansville is going to get into the Missouri Valley and do a lot of damage."
Inside the Irish: Today's game is the first of two preliminary-round games as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Notre Dame hosts Monmouth Monday night in the second preliminary game. The Irish then travel to Brooklyn for the weekend, taking on St. Joseph's at the Barclays Center Friday, and then the winner/loser of the Florida State-BYU game?This is the 10th meeting between Notre Dame and Evansville with the Irish holding a slim 5-4 lead in the series. The last time the Irish and Purple Aces squared off was Dec. 6, 1992. Notre Dame won, 76-70?Notre Dame is 12-0 in openers under Mike Brey?Notre Dame is 100-7 in its last 107 home games for a .935 winning percentage. That's the second best mark in the nation behind Kansas' .964?Scott Martin, Jack Cooley and Eric Atkins were named captains of the 2012-13 team. Martin becomes the 20th player in the 108 years of Notre Dame basketball to serve as a two-time captain.
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