“When it comes down to March, these are the games that are going to help us,” said freshman Adam Wing.
But only if the Aces finally prove they can win one.
“We have to,” Wing added.
So far, UE is 0-6 against then-No. 22 Notre Dame, No. 19 Butler, No. 16 Creighton and both Colorado State as well as Murray State.
Wichita State entered the Associated Press poll at No. 23 this week and is two spots removed from the coaches’ poll.
“You know what, to be honest with you I don’t get too wrapped up in that,” said Shockers coach Gregg Marshall. “It’s like, when we get close to the poll or get in the poll, we either play poorly or someone really gets jacked up for us wanting to beat a ranked team. I guess that’s Southern Illinois and Evansville this week. They get a chance to beat a ranked team.”
Southern Illinois did almost beat the Shockers. The Salukis were up nine points at the half before Wichita State rallied on its home court.
Meanwhile UE has won three straight games, all in Missouri Valley Conference play. The Aces had such a streak just once last season.
“Like I said after that Missouri State game, I was talking about the momentum – riding the momentum wave – and I mentioned how that game could get us going,” said UE senior Troy Taylor. “Everybody’s clicking and shooting the ball really well. Young guys are stepping up.”
The Aces have home court advantage for Sunday’s 3:35 p.m. tip. Their other three games against ranked foes came on the road, where they’ve won just twice this season.
UE coach Marty Simmons said he won’t play up the ranked opponent aspect of this weekend’s game.
“I don’t think we ever approach it that way,” Simmons said. “Really, it’s an old coaching cliché, but we’re just trying to get better every day. This is just the next opportunity to prepare, focus and play to the best of abilities and see where that takes us.
“I think too many times you get focused on that other stuff, and you’re not focusing on what you have to execute and be good at. That’s more for the fans and everybody else. We’ve got to be really locked in and really competitive. That’s today, that’s tomorrow, and that’s obviously on Sunday.”