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This Week in Evansville Basketball

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​Evansville started its road contest against Southern Illinois well on Wednesday evening. The Aces jumped out to an early 5 point lead in the game. Evansville struggled to hold the lead as Southern Illinois was able to take the lead at 23 to 18 in the first half. The Aces only scored 2 points in a 6 minute period in the first half. In any game, this scoring output will hurt a team, but this came on the road for Evansville. Evansville cannot put up consistent scoring when it plays on the road. The Aces have trouble maintaining consistent runs of play on the road. The team is able to make a three and then it will go cold. Evansville should lean on its senior leadership once it gets a shot to fall to put more in the basket. The Aces played better defense in the first half which made the score closer than it should  have been. Evansville erased Southern Illinois’s 8 point lead with a made three by Colt Ryan. Ryan Sawvell gave the Aces a 2 point lead for Evansville. The Aces were able to use defense as well as turnovers to start scoring the basketball. This is what Evansville should have done during the stretch of the half where they did not score. Evansville used a 10-0 run at the end of the first half to make the game close at halftime but trailed 31-30.

​At the start of the second half Southern Illinois went on a 15-0 run to stretch its lead to 14 points at 48 to 34. Evansville missed 7 shots and also made 5 turnovers. The missed shots are a problem, but the turnovers are a larger issue because these are opportunities where the Aces were not even able to get a shot to cut into Southern Illinois’s lead. Colt Ryan scored 21 for Evansville, but the Aces lost the rebounding battle 38 to 26. With this, Evansville will not be able to win games if the Aces allow smaller teams to out rebound them. Rebounding the basketball is about hustle and not which team is the most talented. If a team wants to rebound the ball it will and size will not play a factor. The Aces have to start winning road games and the season is seeming to end as last year with a close to .500 record. The season started with such promise and this is fading away with each loss on the road.

​Colt Ryan believes Southern Illinois applied a lot of pressure which caused problems for the Aces. “They put a lot of pressure on us tonight, and it took us out of what we were doing really. Our guards have got to be able to catch it in the scoring area, sweep the basketball like we talk about every day and see guys. We weren’t able to run an offense tonight, really, and that will get us out of our flow. It’s kind of hard for shooters to make shots. But it’s a team thing.” Marty Simmons says he wishes his team would have played as it did in the game against Drake on Sunday evening. “Play with a little more poise – a little more togetherness. I think we played like that against Drake. But again, for whatever reason we took quick shots. We anticipated the pressure. We anticipated the switching. We encouraged a lot of aggressiveness – a lot of attacking. We just didn’t get it. They rode us off screens. They beat us on the glass. They beat us to loose balls.” Colt Ryan knows turnovers are a problem for the Aces and having so many of them will lead to easy points for the opponent.“They rebounded the ball extremely well. On the offensive end, at times we got stops or forced them into missed shots, they would get a rebound and got offensive baskets that way. They got so many points in transition off our turnovers. It was that. That was the key factor. We had 11 turnovers at half. Against Drake, we have seven in the whole game. I know we came out in the second half, after just talking about it, two offensive rebounds the first possession and then a turnover. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror. We were faced with our problems.”

​On Saturday the Aces returned to the Ford Center to face Creighton. Evansville started the game strong against the Bluejays. They forced Creighton to spend two first half timeouts as Evansville erupted to a 31-15 advantage. Evansville was 6 for 6 to start out the game and lead 14-3. Creighton went on an 11-0 run to cut Evansville’s lead to 5 and the halftime score was 37-32.

​Creighton and the Aces battled for most of the half. The Blue Jays lead by their largest margin at 65-56 with under 5 minutes remaining in regulation.  The aces got the lead down to 1 point with a minute remaining in the game. Creighton was able to hit its free throws to lead by three. Ned Cox’s game tying three fell short and the Bluejays escaped with a 71-68 victory over the Aces.

Marty Simmons said the aces kept fighting hard throughout the game. “We kept battling and our guys showed a lot of toughness and we had our chances at the end. I cannot fault our effort, Creighton is a smart team and if you make mistakes, they make you pay for it.” The Aces were lead in scoring by Ned Cox’s 18 points while Colt Ryan scored 13 for Evansville. Colt Ryan believes the problem was not the start of the game, but rather the middle. “It definitely wasn’t the last shot that lost us the game. We started out really well, and then throughout the middle stretch there we didn’t run the offense well – probably took a couple bad shots – and started giving them some easy looks at the basket, too.” Marty Simmons knows his team needs to play more consistently on the offensive end as just as in the Murray State game the Aces lost a double digit lead as well as the game. Coach Simmons said,  ”At times I felt like we were getting really good opportunities on the offense end and not making them. And then there were other times where I thought we were really trying to force the issue – got outside our offense and tried to play a little one on one. Again, that’s been an Achilles heel for us all year. That really leads to good play for the other team. I just haven’t done a good enough job of getting our players to understand that. They all want to do so well so bad – be the one to stop the struggles. But there’s a certain amount of discipline that you have to have and togetherness to get through those spurts.”

Colt Ryan believes the Aces started strong, but did not finish the first half well. “We were making shots and everything – making probably some difficult shots. Then the eight-minute mark, we hit that timeout and shots stopped falling a little bit. We weren’t getting back in defensive transition a little bit. But give them credit. They kept sustaining effort, and it won them the game.” Adam Wing started for the first time in an Evansville uniform. Simmons believes he is a team player both on and off the court. “He’s a great teammate. We just thought he would give us the best opportunity to get off to a good start, and I thought he played outstanding.” With how Wing played for the Aces he has shown the coaching staff he can contribute to an Evansville lineup which will not feature Colt Ryan as well as Ned Cox next season. It will be important for the Aces to determine who will account for the bulk of the scoring.

On Wednesday the Aces play Illinois State at home and on Saturday Evansville travels to Wright State for the Bracket Busters matchup. The Aces need to win against the Redbirds so as to not let another home game slip away before the conference tournament hits. The bracket buster game can be a spring board to build Evansville’s confidence before the Aces head into the final week of conference play with a road game at Wichita State and a Senior Day game against Indiana State.

Written by theSPORTSfeast Aces Insider Bryce Weiler

Photo Courtesy of “The Sports Beast” James Range

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