The Morning After: Northern Iowa-UE

UE freshman Egidijus Mockevicius went for career highs in rebounds (13) and blocks (6) during the Aces' overtime victory Tuesday against Northern Iowa.

UE freshman Egidijus Mockevicius went for career highs in rebounds (13) and blocks (six) during the Aces’ overtime victory Tuesday against Northern Iowa.

Stories from UE’s 54-51 overtime win against Northern Iowa, the Aces’ seventh home victory in a row:

—Courier & Press: With little offense, UE still beats Northern Iowa in overtime
—Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier: UE tops Northern Iowa
—Des Moines Register: Panthers wilt at UE in overtime

Some observations:

UE coach Marty Simmons often calls on his team to play tougher. Opponents, especially recently, have answered the bell in that regard as well. Their latest method of guarding Aces senior Colt Ryan is to rough up the all-MVC forward. Both Illinois State’s Dan Muller and Northern Iowa’s Ben Jacobson essentially said they’ll take what they held Ryan to in the last two games — about his average number of points, but a relatively low shooting percentage. Ryan is still getting it done, however, despite all the bumps and bruises. He hit eight buckets in Tuesday’s victory and tied a career-high for assists with nine, involving himself in 17 of UE’s 22 made field goals.

—Ryan is absolutely a known commodity to this point. Moving forward, how will opponents play UE freshman Egidijus Mockevicius? He tallied career highs in rebounds (13), blocks (six) and minutes played (26) against Northern Iowa, none of which was possible just a few months ago when the Lithuanian big man couldn’t play a minute without fouling. Afterward, Simmons said Mockevicius’ contributions extend beyond his stat line and wing span within the lane, calling the 6-foot-10 center an “emotional leader” on the court, where he’s already 20 years old but will have four years of eligibility for the Aces.

—The elephant in the room last night at the Ford Center was, of course, that Simmons suspended redshirt sophomore Jordan Jahr due to a violation of team rules. Jahr didn’t appear at the Ford Center, and afterward Simmons said there’s no timeline on his return. Really, though the Aces could have used one more shooting threat on the court last night, not having Jahr around didn’t seem to distract anyone but fans (and media). UE has played shorthanded before this season and in the worst way when Ryan went down with a hip injury. That experience has to help while dealing with the Jahr situation.

—Same slumping offense, but another home win. That’s big for UE moving forward considering how the Aces have played on the road in MVC games. It may just be coincidence that UE’s won all its home MVC contests and gone 1-4 away from the Ford Center, especially because the only really raucous environment so far came at Creighton to open league play. But the rest of the league typically protects its own home courts. In a season the Aces want to be special, they’re holding serve as well.

—UE’s RPI didn’t receive much of a bump — the Aces moved to 105th with the win — but that keeps them firmly in the hunt for an NIT at-large bid. The desired number to play for a postseason tournament better than the CBI is probably the 70-80 range, where the Aces stood after their victory a couple weeks ago over Wichita State. Another win over the MVC’s upper echelon — Creighton, Wichita State and Indiana State, which all appear in line for NCAA tournament bids right now — could put UE over the top. The Sycamores secured their status with last night’s win over the Shockers in Kansas.

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