UE confirmed in its pre-game news release that the winner of Saturday’s Aces-East Carolina CollegeInsider.com Tournament semifinal will be the road team for Tuesday’s championship against the winner of Northern Iowa’s 7 p.m. Saturday game at Weber State.
Until recently, playing away from the Ford Center hasn’t treated the Aces well.
They lost six road games in a row between Jan. 16 and Feb. 23 before snapping the streak at Wright State in a BracketBusters game. Then UE won at Wichita, completing a season sweep of the eventual Elite 8 team, and earlier this week beat Canisius in Buffalo, N.Y. to make it three in a row.
“We have gotten over that, ‘We’re on the road and we might not do as well,'” said freshman Adam Wing. “Since we started this tournament, there’s really no pressure. You’ve got nothing to lose. We’re going out there and playing free – playing relaxed.”
The last UE team to win four in a row on the road was coach Jim Crews’ 1998-1999 squad.
“Coach Crews always told us there’s two types of basketball: good and bad,” said coach Marty Simmons, a former UE player under Crews. “We prepare for a road game the same as we do a home game. It’s just our ability to stay focused and give the effort and energy. We’ve been getting that, not only from the starters but the bench. Just being consistent with that is what I think enables us to be successful.
“The equation to having that success is that energy level — the consistency of not having those droughts offensively, making free throws, finishing.”
Sure, it wasn’t on the road, but the Aces also won outside their true home court when beating Eastern Kentucky at USI’s Physical Activities Center last Saturday.
If UE continues its swing away from the Ford Center and makes the CIT championship, the Aces will travel from Greenville, N.C., for their game against East Carolina straight to the next destination — either Ogden, Utah, for Weber State or Cedar Falls, Iowa, for UNI.
Conference-USA’s Pirates have hosted each of their three CIT games so far at their home Minges Coliseum, where they’re 16-4 this season. Saturday will be the last game at the arena as East Carolina transitions into a new facility next season.