—It’s not within coach Marty Simmons’ belief system to change much, especially at this point in a season. So to see freshman Adam Wing start Saturday for senior Lewis Jones — breaking up a streak of 20-plus games with the same lineup — is a big step for the Aces. Wing scored 10 points, grabbed seven rebounds and tallied a pair of assists in 29 minutes. He fouled out, a result of guarding Creighton junior Doug McDermott, but gave UE a number of options at the four spot the Aces don’t have with Jones. Wing can shoot from 3, he plays hard on both ends, and he’s vocal on the court, whereas Jones keeps to himself. Those are all assets UE’s lacked in losses this season. We’ll see if Wing stays in the lineup over Jones, who didn’t play at all Saturday.
—McDermott scored all of his game-high 21 points after UE pulled ahead 31-15 in the first half. You can only contain the all-American so long. But the Aces did bring in a great game plan to defend Bluejays center Gregory Echenique, who burned them pretty bad in the teams’ last meeting. Freshman Egidijus Mockevicius really stepped up defensively, and whenever Creighton pulled Echenique the Aces went small — sometimes as small as having 6-foot-5 Colt Ryan the tallest player on the court. In just 17 minutes played, Echenique was limited to six points and two rebounds. Whereas UE questionably goes small against teams it’s more talented than — Southern Illinois, for example — the move was a good one to make versus Creighton.
—UE’s offense is what it is. The Aces can start like they did Saturday, hitting six straight shots, but the droughts will happen. They have all season, even dating back to the early Coaches vs. Cancer games. The wins that stick out were those against Western Illinois and Yale, when defense locked down to secure victories. Creighton entered Saturday on a three-game losing streak and, as the nation’s best-shooting team, averaging 40 percent from the field in those defeats. UE cured all those problems, allowing the Bluejays to hit 52 percent of their shots — 59 percent in the second half — as well as half their 3-pointers. In a game where senior Colt Ryan went 3 for 18 from the field, the Aces still had every opportunity to win. Blame the defense.
—Saturday’s loss moved UE to a tie with Bradley for the Missouri Valley Conference’s sixth-best record. The Braves are ahead of the Aces in the standings due to a better overall record, but UE has a better non-conference strength of schedule, creating a scenario where if the season ended today UE would barely be playing on Friday at Arch Madness. Obviously, that’s not where anyone expected this team to be at the beginning. But things aren’t getting easier. Remaining are matchups against three of the MVC’s top-five teams in the ratings percentage index: Illinois State (107th), Wichita State (37th) and Indiana State (60th).