Stories from UE’s 62-61 loss Saturday at Missouri State, the Aces’ fourth straight on the road in Missouri Valley Conference play:
—An overarching theme in comments from UE coach Marty Simmons and players the last week has been continual desire to improve. Really at this point, it would be easy for the Aces’ four seniors to pack it in and accept status quo. But Colt Ryan, Ned Cox, Troy Taylor and Lewis Jones have each stated that they don’t want to go out with another .500 season. Learning to win road games with the current supporting cast is the next step. In four-plus seasons, this senior class has won six of 33 Missouri Valley Conference games away from Roberts Stadium and the Ford Center.
—Against UE, Missouri State won its first game this season when an opponent out-rebounds the Bears. Welcome to the second time around in MVC play. Missouri State didn’t start a player taller than 6-foot-7, yet the Bears forced UE freshman Egidijus Mockevicius into early foul trouble and limited the 6-10 center to seven points and six rebounds in 27 minutes. Going by Mockevicius’ averages, that’s not a bad game. But considering Mockevicius tallied 18 points and eight rebounds in the Aces’ win over Missouri State earlier this season, consider it a good scout by the Bears’ coaching staff.
—Colt Ryan is due for an absolute breakout game so long as the shots fall all 40 minutes. The senior Ryan went 7 of 11 from the field in the second half Saturday, scoring 20 of his 24 points in the final 20 minutes. And it’s not as if Ryan’s shot selection varied from those in the first half. They simply starting going in. It does help that fellow senior Ned Cox came out of the locker room to hit 4 of his first 5 attempts, giving Ryan at least some room to breathe on the offensive end. The 6-5 forward hasn’t had an “on fire” game yet in conference play, though (think 43 points at Creighton last year), and you can bet there will be at least one before his senior season is done.
—All 10 of the MVC’s members play in the same league for a reason. Creighton junior Doug McDermott aside, there’s not much difference in the talent level across the conference. Saturday represented another example of that. Not only did Missouri State knock off UE, but Northern Iowa upset Wichita State and Drake beat Indiana State. The only top-four team in the standings to win was Creighton. Still, at this point in MVC play, regular-season championship chances are slim to none for the Aces. UE has plenty to still play for, however, knowing that everyone — McDermott included — can be beaten in this league when Arch Madness rolls around.