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Aces Beat Panthers, Let Bears Escape With W

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On Tuesday evening Evansville faced Northern Iowa at the Ford Center.

Evansville was looking for its second victory over the Panthers after they defeated Northern Iowa 62-59 earlier in conference play on the road. The game started out strong for Evansville as Troy Taylor and Colt Ryan scored 6 and 5 points each to spark Evansville’s offense. After this the Aces went cold and Northern Iowa was able to go on a run. Evansville trailed at the lead at the half 21-19. Evansville allowed valuable scoring opportunities slip away from them in the first half as well as a chance to put the game away early. The Aces need to put games away early because it is bad to allow teams to hang around. If Evansville continues to do this they will lose some games and the Aces cannot afford to do this since they struggle to win conference games on the road.

​In the second half the offensive struggles continued for Evansville. The Aces trailed Northern Iowa 37-30 with 12 minutes remaining. Evansville missed shot after shot and struggled to cut into the Panthers lead. Finally the offense was able to catch fire and tie the Panthers. Evansville took the game into overtime where the Aces were fortunate to hold Northern Iowa scoreless for the first 4 minutes. Thanks to this, Evansville was able to build a lead and escape with a 54-51 victory. Evansville needs to defend the home court better as it has come close to letting game slip away at home. This is something a championship team cannot do because homes games are usually easier victories thanks to a supportive crowd. Another thing Evansville needs to solve is it goes through long stretches without scoring. While this is acceptable in a couple of games each season Evansville usually has one stretch almost every game. If the Aces cannot get a shot to fall the teams should focus on driving the ball to the rim and trying to get fouled and converting free throws to generate offense.

​Evansville made 37% of its shots for the game and rallied from a 6 point deficit to the Panthers with a minute and a half left in the game to force overtime. Marty Simmons believes his Evansville squad showed a lot of heart in pulling out the victory. “I can’t give our players enough credit. That’s not easy to do, and they all made plays, whether it was offensively, defensively – they never quit. They never thought they were out of it. They just kept battling…and I couldn’t be more proud of a bunch of guys as I am those in the locker room.” Ned Ryan and Colt Ryan each hit a three pointer in the last minute of the game to force the overtime period, which Simmons believes was important in the flow of the game. “We just had guys step up and make tough, terrific shots,” Simmons said. “It obviously gave us some momentum going into the overtime. We probably played with as much energy in the last five minutes of the game and in the overtime as we did the entire game. Those are things we talk about, and we’ve got to improve.” Egidius Moskevicius played well for the Aces as he was able to grab 13 rebounds while scoring 6 points. Moskevicius was also able to alter some of the Panthers shots. Simmons says sometimes it is hard to decide if he should take Moskevicius out of the game. “The guy is very passionate. He’s got an energy level that’s off the charts. It makes it hard to take him out when he’s playing well, even though the matchup says maybe you should because you put a smaller guy out there and you can switch those ball screens…He loves to compete, and I can’t say enough good things about him.”

​On Saturday afternoon Evansville traveled to Missouri State in search of its second road victory in 6 attempts in conference play. Evansville will be without the services of Jordan Jahr as he was dismissed from the team on Friday. This will cause problems for Evansville more next season as Jahr would have been the player with the most experience returning. The Aces started out the game slowly in the first half. The team shot 36% and only made 2 three pointers. Troy Taylor had 6 points for the Aces. Evansville trailed by as much as 5 points in the first half and lead by a single point at the break. Once again bad shooting for Evansville haunted them in the first half. Evansville needs to be more consistent and play harder to stop teams like Missouri State who do not have as much confidence.

​In the second half the Aces started out much stronger. Ned Cox hit back-to-back threes to push Evansville’s lead to 7 at 32 to 25. The Aces lead by 11 points in the second half and Missouri State was able to cut the lead to 2 at 52-50. The Bears hit a flurry of threes which eliminated Evansville’s double digit lead and gave Missouri State a 2 point advantage at 59-57. Colt Ryan stepped up for the Aces as he hit 2 free throws to tie the game and then hit a jumper with a minute left in the game to give the Aces the lead. Anthony Downing then made a three to give the Bears a 1 point lead. Colt Ryan missed a jumper for which would have put the Aces back on top. Ned Cox missed a shot at the buzzer and Evansville lost a heart breaking contest by the final score of 62-61 to Missouri State. The Aces still cannot win away from the Ford Center. Evansville only has 1 road victory in conference play which is less than the Aces had at this point last season. This is not the sign of a team who is improving at all. Last season at this time the Aces had 3 road victories in conference play. A sign of a team which is improving would be capitalizing on the senior leadership and pick up road wins which Evansville has not done so far in conference play.

​Aces coach Marty Simmons thought his team played hard throughout the game. “Sometimes it’s a little tougher than meets the eye, and I thought the thing that was different about today was the guys competed hard for 40 minutes. I don’t have any problem whatsoever with the effort. At times we just didn’t execute at the level we need to. I am certainly proud of how my guys played today.” Colt Ryan said his shot at the end of the game was a little quicker than he would have liked. The Aces had two more chances. “I was just going to get a catch on the wing and create. We were a little worried about them trapping, and I kind of had to go right away. I got a good look at the basket. I just didn’t get it done – missed.” Simmons says the Aces need to make easy shots around the basket. “We had a lot of layup opportunities – inside opportunities where we just didn’t get the basketball in the rim. That puts a lot of pressure on you in a tight game like this.” Colt Ryan still believes Evansville has a chance to make this a special season to remember in the history of Evansville basketball. “In the tournament, you put three or four good games together and you make it to the big dance anyway. We’re not quitting on the season by any means. Just in life in general – not to quit and always persevere – that’s kind of the Evansville way.”

Written by theSPORTSfeast Evansville Insider Bryce Weiler

Photo Courtesy of “The Sports Beast” James Range

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