Indiana State Sycamores (17-12, 9-8) at Evansville Aces (17-13, 9-8)
Missouri Valley Conference Game 18/18
Game Time: 4 p.m. Saturday
Location: Ford Center
Broadcast: WUEV 91.5 FM, MVC TV
Spread: UE opened -4 at Vegas Insider
UE’s Probable Starters: G Troy Taylor, G Ned Cox, F Colt Ryan, F Adam Wing, C Egidijus Mockevicius
Indiana State’s Probable Starters: G Jake Odum, G Dawon Cummings, G Khristian Smith, F RJ Mahurin, C Justin Gant
Last Meeting: UE fell by a 72-62 score on Jan. 19 in Terre Haute.
Series History: The Sycamores have a 81-76 edge in the all-time series, though the aces are 49-29 when defending their home court.
March 1: Aces will honor walk-on Williams’ drive, determination
March 1: Indiana State wants to recover grindability
Feb. 27: Sycamores coach Lansing apologizes for postgame mixup
Feb. 27: Nelson plays key role in UE’s win at Wichita State
Feb. 27: No Arop, no energy for Indiana State in loss to Drake
—Saturday’s game carries direct MVC tournament seeding implications. UE’s able to earn as high as the third seed (with a victory and Northern Iowa loss to Illinois State) and as low as fifth (with a loss to Indiana State). If both the Aces and Northern Iowa win, UE gets the fourth seed.
—The Aces’ 17 wins this season match a career high for coach Marty Simmons in his six years at UE. The school hasn’t won 18 since Jim Crews coached them to that many in the 1999-2000 season. History is on UE’s side, as the Aces have won four of five senior day games entering Saturday.
—At 2,142 points, senior Colt Ryan is 95 away from becoming UE’s all-time leading scorer ahead of Larry Humes. He currently sits ninth on the MVC’s scoring list. He’s 10 points from eighth place and 22 from seventh.
—UE’s improved play over the last four games — a three-point loss to Creighton before wins over Illinois State, Wright State and Wichita State — all came with freshman Adam Wing in the starting lineup. Wing hadn’t played more than 20 minutes in a game before making that first start but has played at least 23 in every contest since while averaging a team-high 6.8 rebounds.
—Earlier this week, the Aces notched their first win over Wichita State in Wichita, Kan., since Feb. 6, 2001. That was also the last season UE swept the regular-season series with the Shockers before this season.
—Indiana State has gone from a likely NCAA tournament at-large candidate to middle of the pack in the MVC. The Sycamores enter Saturday having lost four of five games. They also played Wednesday’s double-digit home loss to Drake without second-leading scorer Manny Arop, who is suspended.
—Indiana State’s strength is in defense. The Sycamores allow opponents to hit an MVC-low 31.5 percent of 3-pointers and are second in the field in overall field goal percentage defense — 41 percent.
UE coach Marty Simmons on his senior class: “These seniors have done quite a bit for our program, not just on the court and establishing ourselves as a competitive basketball team in a very difficult league, but what they’ve done in the classroom. They’re all going to graduate on time, and they’re great role models and ambassadors in this community.
Colt Ryan on his senior day speech: “I’m just going to wing it. I don’t want it to look like it was written out before or robotic. I’m going to say what I feel at the time and thank the people – all I don’t want to do is miss people who deserve thanks – so I’ll try to get as many as I can without it going extremely long.”
Simmons on the senior day experience, which he also had at UE: “There’s just something really, really special about senior day. A lot of times these kids’ family members come, and the community does a great job of coming out. We’re anticipating really good support. It’s just amazing, because when you get these guys you’re constantly talking to them all the time as a coach about, ‘I know it’s four years, but it goes fast. And before you know it, it’s going to be (over).’ Now when you talk to them, it’s like, ‘Wow, where’s all the time gone?’ It’s just a very unique experience.”
Ryan on the importance of Saturday’s game: “We’ve got to be a mature basketball team at this point in the season and realize we’ve played well, but we can’t be satisfied with it. We got a good road win, but we’ve still got a lot hanging on the line that we can still go out and achieve. We need to make sure we work hard in practice and really get after it (Saturday).”
Outlook: There’s not a conference championship on the line Saturday — that’s for Wichita State and Creighton to settle — but UE has plenty to play for, namely the third seed and an easier trip through the MVC tournament. All of that’s for naught if the Aces don’t continue playing as they have during their three-game winning streak.