The Morning After: Southern Illinois-UE

Troy Taylor scored 10 points and led UE in rebounding during the Aces' win Saturday over Southern Illinois. MOLLY BARTELS/C&P

Troy Taylor scored 10 points and led UE in rebounding during the Aces’ win Saturday over Southern Illinois. MOLLY BARTELS/C&P

Stories from UE’s 85-68 win over Southern Illinois:

—Courier & Press: UE plays “Evansville basketball” in win over Salukis
—Southern Illinoisan: Things go from bad to worse in loss to UE
—UE student Bryce Weiler: Aces win two at home

Some observations:

—UE coach Marty Simmons put it best when, after the Aces’ victory Saturday, he said everything seems better when a team shoots well. Sure, there were holes in UE’s defense against Southern Illinois, but a shooting night like the Aces had — 57.7 percent from the field as a team — could be the type of thing that builds confidence in future games. The Aces certainly needed some energy after needing overtime earlier this week to beat a Missouri State team that’s struggled mightily this season, and they hit the road against a Northern Iowa team that hasn’t won yet in league play looking to make it three wins in a row.

—Each of the Aces’ four seniors — Colt Ryan, Ned Cox, Troy Taylor and Lewis Jones — scored in double figures in the same game for the first time ever. The fifth starter, freshman Egidijus Mockevicius, went for just two points and three boards. Simmons saw that coming when he said playing small against the under-manned Salukis may be a must. The answer, though, ended up that the Aces just went slightly smaller, from the 6-foot-10 Mockevicius to 6-7 sophomore Jaylon Moore. Moore scored nine points off the bench, with a couple of his buckets coming on a dunk and alley-oop, and the backup big man also got to the free throw line twice. Both Mockevicius’ and Moore’s play kept sophomore Ryan Sawvell on the bench until the 2:45 mark of the second half.

—UE is 7-0 this season when it out-rebounds opponents and 3-0 when it wins the opening tip. From that small of a sample size, those stats may serve simply as coincidences. But it also shows that in the rare cases when the Aces have a size advantage, they do excel. Mockevicius got the tip Saturday over Southern Illinois’ Davante Drinkard, and UE actually clawed back from a rebounding deficit early to take a 31-24 edge on the boards in the end. That’s telling when the Aces make more than half their shots. Twenty-three of those boards came on the defensive end, and the Salukis only missed 25 shots themselves.

—Ryan drove left and right baseline to score. He pulled up on out-of-bounds plays. He scored 3-pointers in transition, as well as through half court sets. In other words, he’s healthy again — maybe for the first time since the middle of November, when Ryan left the first half of a loss to Buffalo with a hip pointer injury. Ryan said post-game that along with the hip, he’s fought through knick-knack injuries like a hit to the head and a jammed finger or two. Those weren’t bothering the Aces’ leading scorer on Saturday, as he posted a season-high 26 points.

—And talking about Ryan — or just about anything — Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson brought it in his postgame remarks. Hinson, the former longtime coach at Missouri State, is quite passionate about the Missouri Valley Conference as well as doing things the right way. He talked (without being questioned) about the Ford Center, also adding that he’ll miss Roberts Stadium. And he insists on doing things “the right way,” even if his bunch of Salukis isn’t so intent on that. Hinson, already fielding a team with just eight available scholarship players, benched regular starter Desmar Jackson at the start of Saturday’s game due to an issue with punctuality. By all accounts, it’s good to have that type of coach back in Evansville and the MVC.

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