Stories from UE’s 83-69 loss to Drake, the Aces’ first defeat in five games:
—Courier & Press: Drakes downs UE on the road, ending Aces’ winning streak
—Des Moines Register: Bulldogs build momentum with win over UE
—UE coaches told their players this week that Drake likes to push the ball in transition. The scouting report then reminded the Aces that the Bulldogs are the Missouri Valley Conference’s second-best 3-point shooting team behind only Creighton. But Drake imposed its will in those two areas anyway, which manifested a poor two days of practice for UE on the court. The Aces went just 19 of 58 (32.8 percent) from the field, and the Bulldogs tallied 29 of their 36 rebounds on the defensive end. Those translated into transition opportunities and open shots, as Drake went 11 of 20 on from 3-point range. The game served as a reminder of the Colorado State loss, when coaches told the Aces to prepare for a rebounding battle. They were still beaten on the boards 41-22 that day.
—All of that really speaks to the small difference between winning and losing. Sure, Drake led by 16 points late, but this was also a game that had 16 lead changes before that. It could have gone either way, even with Drake in the midst of what’s been a disappointing season so far. The Aces just needed to hit a few shots they regularly make. UE’s place in the ratings percentage index went from 78th to 95th with the loss. Knowing results like this can happen, how crazy will Arch Madness be? If someone can step up and beat Creighton, very crazy.
—Speaking of those missed shots, the Aces have suffered some scoring droughts like that before. UE coach Marty Simmons often says they try to “shoot through it” rather than work for better looks at the basket. It’s safe to say the Aces did that Wednesday, especially in the second half when they went 7 of 29 from the field and 1 of 13 from 3-point range. If the 3s aren’t going in, the best solution isn’t necessarily to keep shooting them. Use big man Egidijus Mockevicius, or have Troy Taylor drive and dish. Even D.J. Balentine can draw a few defenders with a pump fake, and Colt Ryan is always capable of creating inside the 3-point arc. Instead, the Aces shot through the drought.
—UE led by 10 points in the first half and appeared poised to run away with another win. Credit Drake for rallying, but the Aces need to value leads more moving forward. Hot shooting starts also had them up double digits during the first half of games against Murray State and Northern Iowa earlier this season, and those both disappeared as well. It didn’t help that on Wednesday, UE committed more turnovers (16) than it recorded assists (13) for just the second time this season, and only six Aces players scored.