UE knocked off Southwestern Athletic Conference foe Alabama State 80-67 on Saturday at the Ford Center to post its sixth win in eight games.
The Aces moved to 6-4 on the season heading into Tuesday’s game against Division II Oakland City University. Then looms a matchup against Butler, which on Saturday upset No. 1 Indiana.
Senior Colt Ryan scored a season-high 24 points, sophomore Ryan Sawvell added 11 and sophomore Jaylon Moore chipped in 10. Though the Aces committed a season-high 19 turnovers, they forced Alabama State into 22 of their own and out-rebounded the Hornets 36-27.
UE coach Marty Simmons on the game: “We did a lot of good things – just played harder, played more together overall. Right down the line, I think we had better play from everyone.”
The Aces led by as many as 22 points in the first half and 24 in the second before Alabama State whittled the final margin down to 13. “I thought we were really, really good in the first half,” Simmons said. “As the game goes on, we’ve got to maintain that intensity – maintain that flow you’re talking about. We can’t allow stoppages of play from preventing our fast, aggressive play. That’s got to be our mindset at all times.”
Ryan hit his first three 3-pointers en route to leading all scorers. The season high in points came five games after his return fro a hip pointer injury suffered earlier this season. “Id’ be lying to you if I said I was 100 percent, but it’s getting better,” Ryan said. “Everybody here is banged up – people getting hit, bruises, bumps. Everyone’s sore from practice. So I’m sure I’m like everyone else.”
Ryan needed 11 points to tie former UE great Scott Haffner on the Aces’ all-time scoring list. He did that in the first half, then took sole possession of fifth behind Larry Humes, Marcus Wilson, Ed Smallwood and Andy Elkins. “It’s a tremendous honor to me just to be mentioned with the guys who are on that list – UE greats,” said Ryan, who now has 1,699 points in his collegiate career. “I feel truly blessed. It’s just an amazing feeling knowing everything (Haffner) did here. Coach Simmons talks about him a lot since he played with him. He’s just a tremendous worker and everything, and to be able to do that, I feel greatly honored.”
Sawvell scored his 11 points in just 15 minutes off the bench. He’d logged an average six minutes in the Aces’ previous two games. “I thought my play in practice really carried over into the game,” Sawvell said. “I thought I practiced pretty well this week, just in terms of effort and making sure I’m actually trying to rebound the ball. I had five offensive rebounds. Those were all my rebounds, and they were from just making effort plays. I think I just need to keep doing that. That’s what I am for this team, is just kind of an effort guy, I think.”
Simmons on the sophomore forward: “Sawvell had a great week of practice. We had him scheduled to start. (Alabama State) changed their lineup – went with a smaller guy at the four – so we switched and went with Lewis (Jones). It didn’t bother him a bit. I thought he gave us tremendous energy off the bench.”
Speaking of Jones, the senior went down injured in the second half and didn’t return, though he did walk off under his own power. “I’m not sure if he was available to be honest with a sprained ankle,” Simmons said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Sophomore Jordan Nelson missed his second straight game after practicing sparingly this week. Nelson didn’t dress last weekend against Murray State with turf toe. “I think he was available,” Simmons said. “He just practiced, I couldn’t even tell you, 20 minutes yesterday. He’s been out all week. He wasn’t sharp. In dire straights, he might have been available. I certainly expect him to practice tomorrow.”
Heading into Tuesday’s Oakland City game, practice will emphasize more of the same: toughness, aggressiveness and consistency. “We continue to grow with it,” Simmons said. “We got to the line 33 times. That’s pretty tell-tale that we were aggressive, but really, just sitting there on the bench we had other opportunities where we could have been even more aggressive. I’m sure the team won’t be excited to hear that, but that’s how we have to play…As much as it is about Oakland City or Alabama State, we’ve tried to make it more about us, and us getting better. We didn’t finish – that was disappointing that we didn’t finish the way we should – but overall I did think our team improved this week, and now our challenge is to be better come Tuesday night.”