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Aces Split First Two Games of Homestand

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On Wednesday evening, Evansville picked up a 94-68 victory over the Miami of Ohio Redhawks at the Ford Center. This marked the Beginning of a four game home stand for the Aces with upcoming games against Murray State, Alabama State, and Oakland City over the upcoming two weeks. Evansville did not score on the Aces first possession of the game, which is something the team does infrequently. This would be a positive way to start out a game coming out and taking control of the game with a made basket on the first offensive play. However, this fact was not to trouble Evansville on the evening. The Aces made 14 out of 18 threes pointers for 79%. This helped to build a substantial lead over Miami who also made its fair share of three point field goals. Also, 55 of Evansville’s points came from the starters and 39 came from the Aces bench. On the other side, Miami only had 20 points from its bench. Scoring off the bench is important because if a team has players who can step up and score when the starters are taking a break from game action it allows a coach to be more flexible with his lineup.

D.J. Balentine scored 12 points in the first half on four three pointers and finished with 15 points on the game. Ryan said Balentine helped the Evansville offense to start playing at their potential and set the tone for the rest of the game. Balentine scored 12 of his points during a first-half run that put the Aces up double digits for good. When D.J. came in, he gave us a real big spark there – hit quite a few 3s in a row and really got us going,” Ryan said. “After that, we just kind of took off from there.” Balentine says he learns how to score from one of the best in Colt Ryan.” I look up to him a lot and see how hard he works,” Balentine said. “He teaches me a lot. Its just how easy he scores – the way he cuts and moves and he’s double teamed but still scores. It’s amazing how he’s the focus of every defense but still scores 20 points a game…I’m used to guarding him, so now I’m on his team and get to watch him, play with him and see how he does it.”

Colt Ryan scored 18 points for Evansville and said he was surprised with the lack of pressure from Miami. “I was a little surprised that we didn’t get pressed a little more throughout the game. We had prepared for them pressing for 40 minutes. I think the reason why that was, the first few times they did press we broke it and got pretty easy looks at the basket. And that’s what you’ve got to do whenever any team tries to run and jump against you – turn it into easy baskets for your team.” Evansville had 10 players score and coach Marty Simmons believes team chemistry plays a large part with his team. “I think the chemistry on this basketball team is really good amongst all of them. I think they really like being together. I think they like it on the practice floor and during games. But I also think they like each other off the court. A lot of times, when they have free time, they’re together – which I think is good as a coach. Obviously they care for each other enough to spend time that’s theirs together.” Evansville out rebounded Miami by a margin of 38 to 13 after being out rebounded at Colorado State. Colt Ryan believes the key to rebounding is aggression more than talent. “We didn’t emphasize rebounding a lot in the last couple days of practice, but coach Simmons put a huge emphasis on being the most aggressive team. I think that kind of goes hand in hand with rebounding, because rebounding isn’t about how talented you are but your effort and aggression.”

On Saturday afternoon Evansville faced the Murray State Racers from the Ohio Valley Conference. After facing Maim of Ohio and first year head coach John Cooper who gave the Racers the team’s first loss in February 2012 Evansville faced the team itself in Murray State. The Racers made it to the round of 32 and suffered a loss to Marquette after beating a previous Evansville opponent in Colorado State in their first game of the tournament. At the Ford Center Evansville opened up a 15 point first half lead over Murray State. Murray State was able to chip away at this lead and the Racers came away with an 82 to 70 victory over Evansville.

This was a classic win by Murray State because they showed the leadership they amassed over there recent experiences in the NCAA tournament. If Evansville wants to become an elate team in the Missouri Valley Conference the Aces need to put games such as this one away. The lead was at 15 points and it all dwindled away into a loss.

For Murray State Isaia Canann scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half and sparked the run for the Racers. Ed Daniel scored 21 points as well as 15 rebounds. For Evansville Ned Cox scored 16 points in the first half and was held scoreless for the rest of the game. If Cox could have scored a few points in the second half Evansville would have had a chance to win. Ned Cox is a senior for Evansville and he should have stepped up to make sure his team did not lose the game and he did not. Evansville coach Marty Simmons said Evansville needed to be more aggressive coming out of halftime. “From our stand point you’ve got to be ultra-aggressive. You’ve either got to get fouled or score the basket. Then you compound that. We had four turnovers, so four missed lay-ups and four turnovers. Then we lost a little bit of our intensity defensively. They picked theirs up. We just didn’t handle it.” Troy Taylor says Evansville needs to play more consistently going forward in the season. “One thing we’ve been talking about lately is consistency. Everything’s been like a roller coaster up to this point. We’ve got to be more detailed and together, whether it’s watching film or getting extra reps.” Murray State coach Steve Proam says any time a team can pick up a win on the road at a Missouri Valley school it is a well earned victory. “Today is a great win for us, no question. Anytime you go on the road in the Missouri Valley Conference and get a good win in front of a good crowd against a great program – I’ve got a great respect for coach Simmons and how he goes about things doing his job in Evansville. At the 12-minute media timeout of the first half I just told the guys, ‘Start over. We’ll just start over down 15.’ Credit our great seniors, led by Ed and Isaiah.”

Evansville lost to another NCAA tournament participant from last season as well. They have one more chance to pick up a signature non-conference victory in two weeks when they travel to Butler. First, the Aces host Alabama State at the Ford Center on Saturday December 15.

 

Written by theSPORTSfeast Evansville Insider Bryce Weiler

Photo Courtesy of “The Sports Beast” James Range

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