MVC Tournament quarterfinals

Friday’s schedule

Wichita State 80, Evansville 58

Missouri State 53, Illinois State 48

Indiana State 75, Loyola 62

Southern Illinois 63, Northern Iowa 58

Thursday’s scores

Evansville 69, Drake 61

Loyola 74, Bradley 72

Thinking about the Aces

WSU 81, UE 67

WSU 84, UE 68

Tekele Cotton vs. D.J. Balentine is the Valley’s premier individual matchup. Cotton is the best defender. Balentine is the MVC’s leading scorer. Evansville will run him off screen after screen to take advantage of his quick release and soft touch.

Keeping Balentine off the foul line is crucial. He is going to get shots because that’s the way Evansville plays. He is going make many because he’s a great scorer. It’s OK to let him make 10 of 20 shots, as long as he doesn’t add 9 of 10 free throws to that total. He is 7 of 8 against WSU in two meetings this season. The Shockers will take that average of 4 a game.

Aces center Egidijus Mockevicius is a rapidly improving player who had 19 points and 10 minutes in the second meeting. Foul trouble limited him to 16 minutes in the first game. Opposing big men pick up a lot of fouls 25 feet from the basket as they attempt to guard WSU’s Fred VanVleet on screens. The Aces need 30-plus minute from Mockevicius to make this interesting. Their backups aren’t much of a factor.

In the two meetings, the only other Ace to score double figures was Blake Simmons with 12 in the second game. Although the Aces are built to get Balentine shots, he needs help from role players such as Adam Wing and Duane Gibson. Gibson is 0 for 1 from three-point range this season and backup point Jaylon Brown is 2 for 10.

WSU coach Gregg Marshall would love to put this away early so he can rest his starters in the final minutes and avoid injury.