The Aces lost their fifth of seven games Tuesday at Bradley by a 76-70 score, and all five defeats have come on the road.
After senior Colt Ryan tied the score at 70-70 on a 3-pointer inside of two minutes to play, UE went 0-fer from the field and the Braves hit 6 of 8 free throws.
Coach Marty Simmons on the final minute and a half: “I remember the last three (shots), I guess…Obviously Jaylon (Moore) had the dunk at the basket, and I thought Colt (Ryan) got a pretty good look up top, and then D.J. (Balentine) got a pretty good look for us there. It’s just not going in for us right now, but I thought the execution was pretty good.”
Bradley coach Geno Ford on beating UE, a team that blew out his Braves twice last year and then won by 10 points earlier this season: “They’re a tough team. That’s why I’m excited we were able to beat them, because they’re physical. I say all the time. To me, the two most physical teams in the league are Wichita State and Evansville. They just beat you up. They hold you, they grab you, they chuck you, they chest you. They’re strong, and they’re under-sized, and they battle. There’s not a lot of teams I love watching. I like watching them because of how tough they play, and I thought for our guys to really dig down after the way we came out the first two minutes of the second half, and we played soft and weak with the basketball, the last 18 minutes of the game I thought we went to a whole nother level.”
Ryan rallied the Aces in both halves, hitting his last five shots in the first to give UE a lead at the break before hitting the tying 3-pointer in the second. “We got mismatched in transition too much, and he scored a lot of baskets on a lot of different guys,” Ford said. “He’s really good at moving without the ball, and what happened was, they were mismatched on the other end. We had (Dyricus Simms-Edwards) guarding Ryan, but Ryan was not guarding ‘Ric much of the game. A few possessions, yes, but most of the matchups he was elsewhere. So when you shoot, guys go offensive rebound, and when you’re sprinting back defensively, you’re not usually on the same side of the floor. We were getting cross matched, and that was a big problem. It went away at halftime from some switching stuff.”
After UE took a six-point lead in the second half, its largest, Ford called a timeout and the Braves responded with a 26-6 run over the next eight minutes. “We had some slippage midway through the second half there,” Simmons said. “We took quick shots, and that just feeds Bradley. They got some run-outs. I think they got up eight. We just shot quick. It seemed like when we had more patience on the offensive end, we were able to get more efficient.”
Bradley made it to the free throw line 26 times, hitting 20 of those attempts, while UE went 10 of 14 from the charity stripe. “I think the main thing is just stopping the penetration,” said senior Troy Taylor. “That killed us. I know we got to the 12-minute mark and they were already in the one-and-one. That was a huge thing tonight…A lot of teams are setting ball screens, and then the guards are just attacking. It’s our job to contain it. It got to the point where they were getting to the middle, touching the paint, and when that happens the defense collapses.”
Simms-Edwards, Bradley’s top scorer with 21 points, describes a chippy game between the Aces and Braves: “There was a little jawing going on. But that was what rose our intensity level. We were doing a little jawing out there. I won’t tell you guys what was said, but it’s all part of the game. Some guys do that. Some guys don’t. Some guys shy away from it. It’s all fun. It’s no personal grudges. It’s all just part of the game, and you put it behind you when the game’s over.”
The jawing reached its peak in the second half following a Simms-Edwards bucket that tied the score at 40-40 with 15:53 to play. On the other end, Ryan ran into the Braves senior and hit the floor, drawing a foul. “At first I made the shot, and there was a little jawing going on,” Simms-Edwards said. “I was backing up, and I just stopped and he ran into me and fell down. I guess it looked like I kind of went into him, but I didn’t. I just stopped, and they called the foul on me. He’s smart like that. He’s a smart guy, so he used my aggressiveness against me. When I did that, he told me, he said, ‘I knew I was going to get you.’ I said, ‘That’s a smart play, man. That’s a smart play.’ It’s very fun, and it makes it very competitive.”
The loss dropped UE into a three-way tie for fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference with Bradley and Northern Iowa. “We’ve just got to stay positive and keep bringing energy to practice,” Simmons said. “I thought yesterday’s practice was as good as any we’ve had all year. We’ve got a resilient group. We’ve got a couple days here to kind of refresh and get better physically and mentally, and we’ll be right back in it.”