Quotable from UE’s loss to Illinois State

UE made it three losses in four games Saturday while dropping a 67-62 decision at Illinois State, which in turn secured the Redbirds’ third straight victory.

Coach Marty Simmons again blamed an inconsistent offense. The Aces scored just 22 points in the first half. ”We’ve had problems in the last four or five games when teams pick up their pressure – change their intensity level against us,” Simmons said. “Instead of continuing to execute offense, we tend to be more stationary – more one on one. We’re not very successful when we do that. For most of the second half, we got back to being who we are at least offensively. They’re a very difficult team to score against. They play extremely hard. They do a very good job. I just think they played harder and did a better job in the second half.”

Added UE senior Ned Cox: “We need to execute better for 40 minutes. We had times when we slipped up and just weren’t playing very well. They had an eight, 10-point lead at halftime and that was just because of our bad execution. We fought back in the second half. We just didn’t execute the whole 40 minutes.”

So this deep into the season, and with four seniors starting, why is running the offense still such a challenge? “That’s a good question,” Simmons said. “You seem to ask that after each loss. That’s something that we continue to work on daily. If I could put my finger on it, I would have done it some time ago. I think part of that is the competition you’re playing against. They’re tough, hard-nosed, athletic guys, and (we need to improve) our ability to just get tougher mentally and physically, to sustain effort, concentration and good play for longer periods of time.”

Cox said the Aces are willing to work for a better offensive attack: “It’s something that championship teams do, and I feel like we have guys on this team who want to be able to sustain it. It’s just a matter of going out and actually doing it. We’ll just do what we always do: take what we can from this and try to keep moving forward.”

Illinois State seniors Jackie Carmichael (24 points, 14 rebounds) and Tyler Brown (23 points) combined to score the Redbirds’ last 25 points as they took a lead and never gave it up. “They made big plays,” said first-year coach Dan Muller. “We kept going to them. Part of them was we kept calling plays – some ball screen isolation stuff for Tyler to make a play. So that is part of it. But we went to them because they were playing so well.”

Added Simmons on Carmichael and Brown, who also went to the free throw line a combined 29 times: “Those guys are special players. I think they’re both very, very good players – multidimensional players who can score a number of different ways. I don’t want to take away from their great efforts, but there’s things from our standpoint that we certainly could have executed better to make it a little bit more difficult. But that’s my job, and we need to go back to work on those things.”

Muller when asked if he was pleased that Illinois State held UE senior Colt Ryan to 17 points: “Absolutely. And what I’ll take, and I said it before the game, is 6 for 15 (shooting). If a guy shoots enough, they’re going to get some points. But to hold him to that percentage is critical, as we talked about. We want to hold him to a low percentage. Today we ran different guys at him. We knew that going in – we’d have four, five, six guys we could put on him. He’s so good that you have to, I think…They have more than Colt, although he’s certainly one of the best players in this league – absolutely.”

UE went from second in the Missouri Valley Conference standings after its Wichita State win to now a solid fourth. Moving forward, this is how Simmons will handle the Aces: “What I’ve always done as a player and as a coach is just try to focus on the next opponent. Guys are pretty down over in the locker room right now. I don’t think they care a whole lot about the standings. I think they’re a little disappointed with how we played, and I think our focus right now is just trying to regroup because we’ve got a team coming in that’s coming off a tough loss today, that we certainly have tons of respect for. We know it’s going to be a very difficult game, and that’s where all our attention is.”

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