No. 5 Indiana State Sycamores (17-13) vs. No. 4 Evansville Aces (18-13)
Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Quarterfinals
Game Time: 2:30 p.m. Friday
Location: Scottrade Center in St. Louis
Broadcast: Fox Sports Midwest/Indiana, WUEV 91.5 FM
Spread: UE opened -2.5 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 won 84-68 last Saturday at the Ford Center on the Aces’ senior day.
Series History: The Sycamores have a 83-75 edge in the all-time series, and the programs have split their two meetings all-time in the MVC tournament. Indiana State had won four in a row in the series before last Saturday’s game.
March 7: UE starts wide-open MVC tournament with Indiana State
March 6: Aces’ Ryan never short on motivation during college career
March 5: Ryan lands another first team all-MVC honor
March 4: Aces healthy heading into MVC tournament
March 3: Ryan, Aces insist they’re ‘not done yet’
March 2: UE routs Indiana State for senior day victory
—The last time UE finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak, the Aces won three more in their 1993 MCC tournament en route to an NCAA tournament appearance where they faced Florida State.
—UE finished with 10 MVC wins for the fourth time since entering the league for the 1994-1995 season. This season was the first since the Jim Crews-coached Aces went 13-5 and won the 1999 championship that the Aces hit 10 conference wins.
—UE is aiming for its first five-game winning streak since the next Crews team — 1999-2000 — won nine in a row that season.
—Though the Aces have never played the MVC tournament as a four seed, they have in the past started higher. They’re 3-2 since joining the league as a third-or-better seed, including 1-1 last season with coach Marty Simmons’ only Arch Madness victory. They’ve secured a top-four seed three times now.
—UE senior Colt Ryan is 64 points from setting the program’s all-time scoring mark, as he sits at 2,173 points — just behind Larry Humes’ 2,236. Ryan is also seventh on the MVC’s all-time scoring list.
—Sophomore Joran Nelson has scored 16 of his 42 points this season all in UE’s last two games on 6 of 7 shooting. Nelson had five on the road at Wichita State before pouring in a career-high 11 all in the first half of last Saturday’s Indiana State game.
—Sixty-three is Indiana State’s lucky number. The Sycamores are 13-2 this season when holding opponents at or below that number of points. UE scored 62 and lost in the first meeting. The Aces tallied 84 and won the second.
—The Aces and Sycamores last met in the MVC tournament in 2011. Indiana State won en route to its most recent tournament crown and NCAA tournament appearance. Juniors Jake Odum and RJ Mahurin return with the most experience from that team.
—Odum recently joined the Sycamores’ 1,000-point club, and he gets many of them at the free throw line. The 6-foot-4 point guard has hit 172 of 223 attempts this season.
—A big question mark entering Friday is Indiana State junior Manny Arop’s status. The Gonzaga transfer and 6-foot-6 forward is the Sycamores’ second-leading scorer at 12.6 points per game, but he’s missed the last two due to an indefinite suspension. Arop scored 19 earlier this season when the Aces visited Terre Haute.
UE coach Marty Simmons’ postseason philosophy: “It seems in any tournament, you’ve got to be sound defensively. You’ve got to do a great job of rebounding the basketball. And then offensively, just not beating yourself — doing a good job of taking care of that basketball and not letting offense turn into easy baskets for your opponent. Usually if you do those things, you might not win, but you’re going to be right there and give yourself a chance to advance.”
Sophomore Ryan Sawvell on playing at a neutral site: “We’re going to have some people there for us as well as the other team. It’s a huge stadium. The environment itself I don’t consider to be too much like a road game unless we play Creighton or Wichita. They’re going to have a lot of people there.”
Simmons on his team’s poise entering Arch Madness: “I think if it’s real confidence — confidence that comes from doing things the right way like executing things, preparing and doing all the extra effort to be mentally and physically prepared to play a game — I think confidence is off the chart. Now if we’re listening to the wrong things and now that’s making us a little softer or over-confident, then it can become a negative thing. That’s where we’ve challenged our team to be really mature about it. Study your behavior. Evaluate your performance the way we’re showing you, and understand we can get better — we have to get better — and we’ve got to work at these little things in practice the next few days.”
Sawvell on Indiana State junior Manny Arop: “He’s probably going to play, just because it’s a pretty crucial part of the year and they’ll want their best lineup out there. I think he’s one of their best players.”
A few college basketball experts picked the Aces to win the tournament. “That stuff doesn’t matter,” Simmons said. “There’s a lot of really good teams in our league, and we’ve played them all twice. You’d better be ready to play. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. It’s been that way all year long, and if we don’t understand that now, then shame on us because this is one of the best leagues in the country and you’ve got to compete to the highest level to have a chance on any given night.”
Sawvell on the Aces’ likelihood of winning the tournament: “I think our chances are as good as anyone’s. I think it’s been proven that anyone can lose to anyone else. I think we’re going to have to play pretty good defense and rebound the basketball if we’ll have any chance of winning.”
UE senior Ned Cox on Colt Ryan, his roommate, chasing the Aces’ scoring record: “It’s never much about individual things. It’s all about the team. That’s one of the biggest things about him. He cares about the team and not so much the individual accolades. Personally, I want it for him. I want him to get it. First off we’ll try to get the win. Second off, hopefully he gets that. It would be great.”
Outlook: How important is Manny Arop to Indiana State? Does a neutral court mean an Aces team that plays more like it did at home or on the road this season? And can UE continue the play that’s given it four straight wins to end the regular season? The answers to those questions will determine whether the Aces advance to the semifinals for the second year in a row.