Links from UE’s 75-67 loss to Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse, which closed non-conference play for the Aces:
—Courier & Press: Butler hangs on late to beat UE
—Indianapolis Star: Everything coming together for Butler, Andrew Smith
—Associated Press: Evansville falls short vs. No. 19 Butler
—UE student Bryce Weiler: Aces beat Oakland City, lose to Butler
—UE’s non-conference schedule consisted of seemingly either very good or very bad opponents, and against the good ones — Notre Dame, Colorado State, Murray State and Butler — some trends emerged. The Aces often led early and played well only in stretches before ultimately falling. Their loss to the Bulldogs was another example against that. The start of Missouri Valley Conference play on Saturday against Creighton will bring another high-profile test as well as a chance to put it together for 40 minutes. “I’d like to think we’re a better team” than at the beginning of the season, said UE coach Marty Simmons, who added that “to be honest, we should probably be a little farther along than we are.” Yes, the Aces whiffed on a lot of opportunities to snag a signature win before league play. Now against the Creightons, Wichita States and Illinois States of the MVC, they’ll see more of the same quality foe.
—Saturday delivered another chapter in UE’s inability to get consistent play at the center position in particular. Freshman Egidijus Mockevicius started but scored two points and grabbed one rebound in 11 minutes. Simmons said the Aces then decided to go small, playing sophomore Ryan Sawvell (10 points, six boards) for 27 minutes at the five spot. Sophomore Jaylon Moore didn’t play at all for the first time this season, not because he was hurt. “Just the way the game was going there, we thought Sawvell was giving good minutes,” Simmons said. The only thing consistent about those three players — Mockevicius, Sawvell and Moore — is that as a unit, they’re going to be inconsistent. And the end result is UE having to choose a best matchup for what the opponent’s dominant center brings to the floor — that rather than the Aces setting the tone themselves at the five.
—There were some bright spots in UE’s win. Obviously, the Aces didn’t give up in the end. And while trying to rally in the second half, they turned it over just three times, finishing with 10 total. Butler committed 17 despite winning. “One of the things that’s unheralded about Evansville is they turn you over,” said Butler coach Brad Stevens. “They’re in the top 15 in the country, I think, on Kenpom.com in turning people over. We added to that – added to the resume.” It’s not often a coach sources Kenpom.com. Those in the Butler media assured Stevens knows the website’s numbers, as well as what they mean, better than anyone. The Aces have forced 192 turnovers to just 142 of their own, and UE has assisted 192 of 305 made buckets this season.
—There’s lots of hype about visiting Hinkle Fieldhouse. Saturday was this writer’s first time, and it wouldn’t have been a special experience had Butler fans not packed the place nearly to capacity. An announced 9,190 showed up to the 10,000-seat gym for a day in which the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame honored some of the building’s history with a display there. Also, at the game’s first media timeout, the public address announcer found the first person of those 9,000-plus to ever visit Hinkle Fieldhouse. It was a woman who’s been going since the 1920s and saw the gym when it was originally under construction.
—UE’s players get Sunday and Monday fully off for a brief holiday break before practicing Tuesday night — Christmas day. Why resume on the holiday? “Well, we’ve got Creighton on the 29th,” Simmons said. Fair enough. The Bluejays are 11-1, were picked to win the MVC and feature preseason all-American junior Doug McDermott. And “with the travel and everything, it’s just good to get everybody back,” the coach added. “Really the following day – the day after – we can have our meetings and start preparation for Creighton. For us, I think as a team and a staff, three days of preparation is what we look for. It just kind of fits that way.”