UE advanced to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament’s semifinals Tuesday behind another record-setting night from senior Colt Ryan.
But this was the big one.
Ryan surpassed Larry Humes on the Aces’ all-time scoring list, pouring in a season-high 39 points during an 84-83 victory over Canisius in Buffalo, N.Y. The Aces move on to play East Carolina at 4 p.m. Saturday in Greenville, N.C.
Thirty of Ryan’s points came in the second half, and he scored 19 of UE’s last 20 points. “I play my best when I just let things come to me, and tonight I was able to get open on some shots when I was feeling it,” he said. “I kind of got going and made shots coming down the stretch somewhere around eight or six minutes to go. I was just feeling it then, and they were going in.”
Canisius was in a zone when Ryan hit the 3-pointer that give him the record at the 1:56 mark of the first half. He needed nine points to Humes entering. “I knew I had six points, and we were just swinging the ball around the horn. I think (Jordan) Nelson had the ball out top, he reserved it to me, and I hit it. That’s kind of funny, because Nelson was the one who threw it to me, but Troy and Ned were like, ‘Nah, I’m gonna be the one to get the assist for Colt tonight.’ As soon as we got done, Nelson told me he threw it to me and I told Troy and Ned. They were like, ‘Man, you should have done it when I passed it to you.’”
And at the end, Ryan made his last five shots. Could he miss? He didn’t think so. “Coming down the stretch, I really felt good. I like shooting in this gym – even last night and stuff. I kind of got in a groove and was able to make shots.”
The 39 points tied a CIT record for most in a game. UE needed every one of them in a game where the Aces rallied from nine points down at the half. “I knew when we were the locker room at halftime – the things Colt was saying – that he was really serious,” said senior Troy Taylor. “And I was telling the guys, I was saying it’s now or never. There’s no tomorrow. If we lose, we’re done. I told them we’re lucky to be in the position we are now, and we might as well take advantage of it. Colt, he was just telling everyone to do it together. It’s not about individuals. He challenged us to start the second half off with five stops. I don’t know how many stops we got in a row, but we picked it up.”
Ryan on surpassing Humes: “It’s a tremendous honor. Larry Humes was an outstanding player, and he’ll never be forgotten at Evansville. He did that in three years. He’s helped me a lot on my way, too. He’s come by practice multiple times and said things to the team and said things to me individually that’s helped me. I greatly appreciate everything he’s done for me and the program. He’s first class – an amazing player and just a great person.”
Ryan reached the 30-point mark for the fourth time this season and came up just short of the career-high 43 he tallied last year at Creighton. “He’s a very special player,” said coach Marty Simmons. “He’s a very competitive guy, and he’s a very confident guy. I think the other part is his teammates and their ability to execute – setting screens, delivering the passes to put him in a position. I think it’s two-fold. He’s done this for us on several occasions. He’s just that kind of player. I just think our overall execution in the second half, our guys did a good job of getting him open and getting him in a spot where he could make shots.”
The Aces overcame a 45 percent 3-point shooting night by Canisius to win. A 14-4 run out of the locker room got them back in contention before Ryan put the team on his back. “I think it was a little like the Eastern Kentucky game,” Simmons said. “At half, we felt like we were giving good effort, but our ability to execute things especially defensively that we had set up wasn’t where it needed to be. You’ve got to give our players and our assistant coaches a lot of credit. We got off to a great start in the second half.”
UE’s scored at least 80 points in its three CIT wins — over Tennessee State, Eastern Kentucky and now Canisius. The Aces have, in all, won seven of eight games. “I feel like everybody right now, at this point, they know what their role is on the team,” Taylor said. “Everybody plays well with each other. We all hang out with each other after practice. I feel like our bond is as strong as it’s been all season. Everybody loves playing with each other. Everybody’s willing to listen.”
Taylor continued: “You have me, Colt, Ned and Lewis, and we challenge guys to get a little tougher or play a little harder. They respond pretty well. That’s just one of the things everybody’s been doing real well. Even when the younger guys tell me to do something I’m not doing very well, they’re challenging me. If you have a whole team that’s willing to challenge each other and not argue, but respond throughout the course of a game, that just helps tremendously. That’s just something I think we’ve been doing lately.”