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Two Victories for Evansville Aces

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On Wednesday Evansville faced the Northern Iowa Panthers. Evansville started out with a 7-2 lead and the Panthers scored the next 8 points. Evansville went on a key 9-0 run which had a 5 point scoring streak by Adam Wing to make the Evansville lead 6. Ned Cox hit a three to make the Evansville lead 8 points. The lead then went to 10 as Ryan Sawvell made a basket. These two players are coming up big together as Sawvell has not played much for Evansville in the past few games. Since he is able to show he can come off the bench and play well after not playing, it provides Marty Simmons with another option to throw out with the different lineups around the conference. Evansville was whistled for 7 fouls in the first half while Northern Iowa only had 2, but Evansville lead at the break 32-25.

The Aces started out the second half on fire. Evansville more than doubled its lead to 12 by the first media timeout holding Northern Iowa scoreless through this stretch. Evansville kept on trading baskets with the Panthers, but Northern Iowa hit threes to slowly eat away the Aces lead. UNI made 3 straight three pointers to slim the Evansville lead to 6 points. Evansville needs to defend the three-point line better because since 1986-1987 teams have been using this to catapult them throughout the season. Rick Pitino used this with Billy Donovan at Providence to take the Friars and Pitino to their first Final Four with the first year of the three.

As Northern Iowa hits its fourth consecutive three and was on a 14-2 run Evansville’s lead was just 2 points. The Aces need to figure out a way to respond when Evansville is given a chance to have a double-digit game. In the game against Murray State, Evansville let a double digit lead slip away. Evansville built the lead back to 6, but Northern Iowa was able to cut the Evansville lead back to 2 points. The Panthers did the same to eliminate most of Evansville’s lead and the Aces would need to respond to the scoring barrage. Evansville went down by 2 points and then the Aces responded by having Lewis Jones making a basket and Jones was fouled. He completed the three-point play and the Panthers missed their shot. Then Evansville was fouled and made two free throws to win 62 to 59.

Troy Taylor knew that Northern Iowa would come back once Evansville had established a double-digit lead in the first half.“We could have easily gotten down and they could have gone on a 20-0 run, but we have four seniors on our team with experience. It’s our job to make sure everything stays in control and they don’t pull away – have to make sure the younger players don’t get caught up with the crowd.” Colt Ryan says Northern Iowa runs the same plays until the opponent proves it can stop them. “They’re very cerebral, and they’ll switch it up throughout the game. They were doing things differently at the beginning of the game from the end defensively. Offensively, they try to find something that’s working, and as soon as they find it’s working, they’ll go back to it five, six times until someone stops it. Coaches got a good scout on them, and we were fortunate to get stops.” Troy Taylor believes Lewis Jones is such a good player because of how Jones attacks the rim. “He might be one of the strongest players I’ve ever played with. He going to the rim is so un-guardable because the way he goes up is strong. The way he got that and-one at the end of the game with three guys on him, and he still got the ball to the rim and got the roll.” Evansville picked up a road victory after the Aces allowed a lead to slip away in the second half. Evansville showed great poise in being able to pick up this victory because Northern Iowa was making a run on Evansville. The Aces did not crumble under this pressure. Rather, they survived it and overcame the challenge to pick up the victory. It is important for Evansville to achieve victory on the road because this is a hard place to win in the Missouri Valley.

On Sunday Evansville played Wichita State back home at the Ford Center. The Shockers were coming in off a close 5 point victory over Southern Illinois.

On Sunday Evansville played number 23 Wichita State at home. Evansville started out the game strong and the Shockers were able to take a lead in the game. The game was a back and forth affair through the rest of the half. In the second half Evansville was able to pressure Wichita State into committing some turnovers. The Aces used these to score and capitalized by adding more points to the Evansville lead. Evansville had a 4 point lead with under a minute remaining in the game and tried to get the ball inbounds. The Shockers stole the pass and were able to hit a three pointer to cut the Evansville lead to one. Evansville was fouled and hit two free throws to make the lead at three points. The Shockers then missed a three and fouled Evansville again. The aces ended up with a 71-67 victory over the Shockers which was Evansville’s first victory over a ranked team this season.

Marty Simmons believes Evansville played hard throughout the game.  “I’ve got such respect for coach Marshall and just how hard they play – just how good they are. I’m just really proud of our team and how they hung in there together and competed for the full 40 minutes.” Colt Ryan scored 24 for the Aces and believes Evansville started to play better as the game progressed. “Later on in the game, we were setting some good down screens, they weren’t extending as much and we were able to get some good shots to kind of stop their run.” Troy Taylor believed the crowd was important in the Evansville victory. “It got to a point where we were down by five, made a couple plays and the crowd got into the game – got loud – and the Wichita players got flustered and turned it over. I give credit to them. They help us out tremendously. It’s like a sixth man on the court.”

Evansville finally picked up a victory over a ranked opponent. This could be the win Evansville needed to catapult the Aces into the top of the conference. While the game was at home, Evansville played with energy throughout the game and did not allow the Shockers many offensive rebounds, which was a problem for Evansville in the past. The whole team hustled on the court and caused Wichita State to commit some turnovers with Evansville pressure defense. Evansville has two tough games on the road this week at Drake and Indiana State, so the Aces will have to continue this trend on the road where Evansville has struggled in the past. Evansville picked up a road victory at Northern Iowa and the Aces have won four games in a row. This could lead to a long winning streak for Evansville, which would set the Aces up for a high seed in the conference tournament.

Written by theSPORTSfeast Evansville Insider Bryce Weiler

Photo Courtesy of “The Sports Beast” James Range

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