Bradley coach Geno Ford discussed this week’s game against UE at Carver Arena in Peoria, Ill, on Monday morning’s Missouri Valley’s coaches teleconference.
The Braves enter a 7 p.m. Tuesday matchup after a loss Saturday at Creighton. Ford’s team is 13-10 overall and 2-6 in MVC play, good four fifth in the league standings.
Ford’s opening statement: “Evansville’s very well-coached, obviously. Marty (Simmons) does a great job, and they play really, really hard. Probably, in my opinion, one of the most physical teams we’ve faced all year to date. They really boss the ball and make it difficult to get open. They get up in the pass lines. They’re really difficult to cut or have any sense of timing against because they’re so physical away from the ball. It will be difficult for us offensively, and then anytime you have to guard Colt Ryan in that motion offense, it’s never easy.”
Road teams are a combined 15-40 this season in MVC play. Ford on that trend: “At home in our league, as we all know, you have to win. It seems like there’s more pressure on you at home than on the road because there’s just not a lot of road victories in conference. There’s just really, really good teams and it’s hard to win on the road. Hopefully we’ll step up to the challenge, hold serve a little bit and hang in there in the middle of the pack here.”
UE just beat Bradley by 10 points at the Ford Center on Jan. 23. The second time around, Ford said: “You really look at the matchups, because basketball’s such a game of matchups and what kind of rhythm you’re in as a group. Almost every team in the league has a rotation that evolves. Some guys play more earlier in the season than they do now. When you’re playing a league opponent, you have a really good feel for what they’re able to do that you didn’t have an answer for, and you try to slow that a little bit. I think the scouts are a little easier on the players because it’s not first time information, so I think you get a little better retention on the second time through.”
Aces senior Colt Ryan led UE with 19 points in its first game against the Braves. “Colt’s going to score points,” Ford said. “He’s one of those guys that to me, he scores without the ball other than (Doug) McDermott better than anybody in this league. What I mean by that is he really moves. If you try to cheat him up the middle, he knows to step flat. He finishes it, and he just burns you for it. He’s also just really good at taking a dribble, just stopping, getting into your body to where he’s able to jerk his neck back to create some contact and flail a little. And he’s not going to miss free throws, so you’ve got to be constantly concentrating on, ‘Not only do I have to stay in front,’ but also doing it without making contact. I don’t envision us holding to much less than 20. He seems to do that every night.”
UE freshman Egidijus Mockevicius also had presence, going for 10 rebounds against the Braves. “The big kid really had a great game against us and hurt us inside in a game where, on paper, we really had more size,” Ford said. “But they beat us up in the lane, so that’s going to be a big focal point because he’s very good. He’s getting better. I’m not going to pronounce his name, but (No.) 55 – he’s a good player. We can’t allow him to get a double-double on us and think we’re going to win. Colt getting 20 on us is not going to beat us. With 30, he can beat us. But 20 are pretty much in the book before the jump ball.”