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Aces Lose Two on the Road

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On Wednesday Evansville began a two game road swing at Drake. Evansville started out the game very strong edging out to a 13-6 lead. D.J. Balentine scored 4 consecutive points for the Aces to make the lead at 7. Balentine is showing more confidence, which is something that is good for a freshman. Balentine furthered show his confidence in his shooting ability by hitting two straight three pointers to extend Evansville’s lead by 6 more points. Drake went on an 8-0 run which Colt Ryan stopped by making a three. Drake finished the first half strong as Evansville faltered down the stretch. The Aces were forced into committing turnovers and also took quick shots, which were missed. Evansville scored 6 straight to cut the Drake lead to 1 at half. The Aces should not have been down by this many points as Evansville had a 10 point lead earlier in the first half. If Evansville would have made any improvements from the victory over Wichita State, the Aces would not have relinquished this lead to Drake. It is a sign of a good team once the team is ahead to keep its pedal on the gas and close the game out, which Evansville did not do in the half.

In the second half Evansville and Drake went back and forth. Drake would build a lead and Evansville would come close to erasing the lead. The Aces trailed 60 to 57 with 11 minutes remaining in the game. Drake went on an 18 to 3 run to break the game open. Evansville did not learn any lessons from the game against the Shockers. Although the game was on the road, if Evansville had learned something from Sunday’s victory the Aces would have finished the game in the first half which would have drained Drake’s confidence. Evansville dropped the game at Drake 83 to 69.

Marty Simmons believes Evansville gained too much confidence after the victory over the Shockers which the Aces did not bring to practice.“You’ve got to build habits through practice. After the Wichita State game we were very lethargic in two days of practice. It was disappointing because that’s the key when you’re game planning.” Simmons also says the conference season is a grind with two contests each week. “When you’re into games now, it’s repetition, repetition. It’s the effort, the ability to retain the information and we were just not locked in. So now our challenge is to go back and get locked in.” Colt Ryan led Evansville in scoring with 25 points and took the blame for the loss as an experienced senior leader. Senior Colt Ryan, who led the Aces with 25 points, shouldered the blame: “We weren’t very sharp, and that’s my fault. Being a senior captain who’s been playing for four years. In conference, they come back to back and this was one of the first games where we’ve really gone to practice right after the game. It was an emotional game — a hard-fought win for us against Wichita. But we’ve got to come out and have a much better practice the next day.”

Evansville shot 32% for the game and Colt Ryan believes Evansville surrendered to many turnovers. “You’ve got to make sure when you’re in one of those droughts that we’ve got to get a bucket. Tonight, we turned the ball over way too much, and we didn’t make enough shots. I missed too many shots in those time frames where they get on those runs. You’ve got to be able to make shots because they can’t go on runs like that.” Evansville lost control of the game in the second half, as it did not score for 9 minutes and 54 seconds. This is to far of a stretch for the Aces not to put a point on the board. The players need to do something to spark a scoring run whether this be drawing a foul or penetrating to the rim to score an easy basket to boost their confidence. Also, Evansville needs to bring the same intensity to all of its practices the Aces displayed in the victory over Wichita State. Practice is the time for improving and if a team is not excited about practicing then often times this lack of excitement will carry over into the game as it did at Drake. Evansville started off the game strong, but faltered down the stretch loosing a 10 point lead and the game in the process.

On Saturday Evansville traveled to Terre Haute, Indiana for an instate showdown with the Indiana State Sycamores with the chance to begin another conference winning streak. The Aces started off the game strong as the Aces lead 17 to 6 with 14 minutes remaining in the game. This strong start was something Evansville had experienced before, but it would be critical for the Aces to defend the lead and not give in to Indiana State’s pressure. Evansville took to long in the first half to shoot the ball as the Aces would wait until 5 or 7 seconds were left on the clock to start its offensive play. This is too long to wait as the Aces let valuable time slip away to create a better shot. If Evansville cannot create a shot faster this gives an advantage to the opponent because they know if the can force the Aces to use most of the shot clock Evansville will probably miss the shot. Adam Wing made a basket as the half expired to give Evansville a 32 to 26 lead. This was a big shot for the Aces as it gave Evansville momentum going into the break.

Colt Ryan started out the second half by making a lay-up for Evansville which gave the Aces a 6 point lead. Indiana State eliminated Evansville’s 6 point lead and for yet another time this season Evansville let a doubled digit lead slip away as the Aces lead by 11 in the first half. Indiana State took it first lead of the game at 44-42 with 11 minutes remaining.

Colt Ryan made a huge three to cut Indiana States lead to 5 at 56-51 with 4 minutes 30 seconds remaining. Indiana State picked up the victory over Evansville 72 to 62.  Scoring droughts in the second half have hurt Evansville in both of the Aces games this week as Evansville allowed leads to slip away in each of their losses on the road. Evansville needs to learn once a lead is established they need to take control of the game. This shows Evansville is not making strides to become a better team as the season progresses. With this outlook, the Aces will not finish much better in conference play than the team did last season. Troy Taylor believes how Evansville fairs from this point forward relies on the senior leadership. “As seniors, this is our last year. We have to do everything we can. We’re not trying to go out with a .500 record. We’re trying to leave with a bang.”

Marty Simmons believes Indiana State played hard and Evansville was not up to the challenge. “We’ve got to have more movement in the half court. We’re standing too much. It allows their defense to get set in the gaps and take away our penetration. We’ve got to have some guys step up and take some shots.” Also, Simmons believes confidence is important especially during the game. “Confidence…is something we’ve talked about a lot. It’s a fickle thing, and we’ve got to get in the gym, get guys making shots in practice, and we’ve got to have some carryover into games.” If the Aces can have confidence during practice it is hard to understand why the team cannot carry it over into a game. After Evansville defeated Wichita State the Aces played poorly at Drake. The team should have used this chance with an upset victory to play at a higher level, which it did not do.

Written by theSPORTSfeast Aces Insider Bryce Weiler

Photo courtesy of “The Sports Beast” James Range

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