The Morning After: UE-Wright State

morningafterwrightstate

UE lost Ned Cox (right) with a left foot injury Saturday but should be fine if D.J. Balentine (left) moves into a bigger role.

Links from UE’s 70-58 BracketBusters win at Wright State, the first Aces road win in more than a month:

—Courier & Press: Balentine lifts UE to win over Wright State
—Dayton Daily News: Early stretch dooms Raiders
—UE student Bryce Weiler: Aces winning down the stretch

Some observations:

—There will be no official update on UE senior Ned Cox’s left foot today, as the Aces are off before heading into their final week of Missouri Valley Conference play. But it’s hard to imagine a guy wearing a boot out of the locker room on a Saturday will be at full strength for a game the following Wednesday, even if the injury is something less than a break. It’s a shame things could end this way for Cox, a three-year bench player who really shined this season in a starting role. That said, UE should be fine even with its second-leading scorer potentially limited. Freshman D.J. Balentine made sure of that against Wright State, scoring all 18 of his points after Cox went down with the injury.

—Coming off the bench may have just sparked senior Lewis Jones. His production was certainly down — no double-figure performances since a Jan. 5 win over Southern Illinois — and sickness a week ago gave freshman Adam Wing a chance to start in Jones’ place for the first time this season. Jones played just five minutes and didn’t score Wednesday against Illinois State, but he made a statement at Wright State, finishing with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go with four rebounds. It would have been easy for Jones to accept the new role, fade and give up. That he didn’t shows where the Aces are heading into the final week of the regular season — certainly on an uptick given they dropped four of five before then.

—The Horizon League is a different place — definitely not the kind of conference a program that plays in the Ford Center and has a new practice facility if a trip to Wright State is any indication. Given all the rumors of UE’s interest in joining the league last fall — they were all shot down emphatically — that’s worthy of addressing. Meanwhile, in the MVC, the league suddenly looks like it could get just one NCAA tournament bid. Creighton continues to falter, dropping its BracketBusters game at Saint Mary’s to make it four losses in six games. Indiana State beat Iona on a late shot, but the Sycamores have 11 losses. One bid could be a reality if Wichita State wins the conference tournament.

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