Quotable from UE’s win over Drake

UE senior Colt Ryan eclipsed 2,000 career points Sunday and pushed the Aces to an 84-78 victory over Drake at the Ford Center.

Ryan, who finished with a season-high 33 points, became the third UE player and 14th in Missouri Valley Conference history to hit 2,000. He entered needing six points to hit the mark and did so in the first half. “He’s worked so hard for so long – long before he got to Evansville,” said coach Marty Simmons. “He’s just that kind of player. He loves the game, and he’s gotten better every year. I think he’d be the first to give credit to his teammates. They set a lot of screens for him. They get the ball to him in good spots. But the thing about him is, he’s invested so much into being a good player that it’s really need to see him accomplish something that’s really so special.”

It was what Ryan did in the second half that he cared more about. The 6-foot-5 forward sank a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left that forced overtime and hit all 10 of his free throw attempts in the extra session. “The main goal tonight was to win,” Ryan said. “Drake’s beaten us the last four times, and they’ve beaten us pretty good, really. We kind of talked about that before the game, and we just wanted to come out and get the win.”

As for that 3-pointer, where does it rank among shots in Ryan’s career? “No. 1 right now,” he said. “There’s been a lot, and I’ve missed a lot too. It felt good to be able to make this one, put us into overtime and get the victory. It was huge for us, not only for our team but our program in general.”

Ryan made 14 of 15 shots from the line and also recorded seven steals. “As the halves go on and things, I always keep an eye on the foul count of the other team and try to be more aggressive once the team is in double figures once we’re in the bonus and can shoot free throws,” he said. “It’s easy to get to the line that way and score points.”

The Aces entered having lost five of seven games. Understandably, Simmons was just happy to see his players get a victory. “Those kids work every day,” Simmons said. “They come to practice every day. We had two tough losses that basically came down to the last possession or two, and I think they’re resilient. They have a good attitude. They’ve come with energy. I’m just really happy for them – to see them rewarded – because they give so much to practice, to weight training, to conditioning, to school work, to whatever it may be. It’s nice to see them be rewarded.”

Drake coach Mark Phelps called it a “typical Valley game,” adding, “We had our chance to close it out at the end of regulation. We were not able to get the defensive rebound on a couple of occasions. Colt Ryan’s a great player. Scored a 3. They went to the free throw line the entire overtime. Tough loss for us, and a good one for Evansville.”

The win came on “Throwback Night,” in a game broadcast on ESPN U, and in front of an announced 4,210 fans. “We just really stressed, ‘Play for somebody else tonight. Play for a teammate. Play for a former player,'” Simmons said. “We wore the orange jerseys. Just be a giver and be unselfish. When you see 22 assists and 26 field goals, I’d saw we did a pretty good job of that.”

With the victory, UE now sits two-games back of a three-way tie for first in the MVC among Indiana State, Wichita State and Creighton. “We addressed that too,” Ryan said. “Especially with the game last night with Illinois State and Creighton (the Redbirds won in Omaha), there’s a lot of action going on in the conference. Surprising games. We said we can’t be giving up games. We’re two games back out of first place. You say that with five games left now. You never know what happens. We play all the top teams. We’re making sure we’re taking care of business and focusing on Southern (Illinois) next.”

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