Evansville Aces (13-10, 6-5) at Bradley Braves (13-10, 5-6)
Missouri Valley Conference Game 12/18
Game Time: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Location: Carver Arena in Peoria, Ill.
Broadcast: WUEV 91.5 FM
Live Coverage: Follow on Twitter (@ECP_Lintner)
Spread: Bradley -1.5 at Vegas Insider
UE’s Probable Starters: G Troy Taylor, G Ned Cox, F Colt Ryan, F Lewis Jones, C Egidijus Mockevicius
Bradley’s Probable Starters: G Walt Lemon Jr., G Dyricus Simms-Edwards, G/F Jake Eastman, F Tyshon Pickett, C Will Egolf
Last Meeting: UE beat Bradley 66-56 on Jan. 23 at the Ford Center in a game where the Aces pulled away late.
Series History: The Braves own a 23-18 series edge and are 15-3 when defending their home court.
Feb. 4: UE wants to end road woes at Bradley
Feb. 4: Braves preparing for sharpshooting Ryan
Feb. 3: Status quo the enemy now for Aces
Feb. 2: Missouri State deals UE another road defeat
Feb. 2: Big second half sends Bradley past Creighton
—Struggling away from home is nothing new for UE, which has blown double-digit leads in three of its last four road games. The Aces are 23-100 in Missouri Valley Conference road games since 1999-2000 and haven’t won more than three of them in one season. They shoot for league road win No. 2 at Bradley.
—The Braves are 10-2 at Carver Arena this season, with the only losses to No. 3 Michigan and Wichita State. An 11th win would mark the most at home by the Braves since 2008-2009.
—UE senior Colt Ryan is now 33 points away from becoming the 14th player in MVC history to crack the 2,000-point mark. At 1,967 points, Ryan is also closing in on Marcus Wilson’s 2,053 all-time points — second on the school’s scoring list.
—Ryan hasn’t been scoring the ball alone for UE. He and senior Ned Cox have combined for 52.9 percent of the Aces’ points over the last six games, including 16 of the Aces’ 24 made 3-pointers and 52 of 76 made free throws.
—Senior Troy Taylor has grabbed at least six rebounds in every MVC game and averages 8.6 of them in conference games, second in the league behind Illinois State senior forward Jackie Carmichael’s 10.9 boards. Taylor has led the Aces in rebounding during eight of their 11 MVC contests.
—UE’s loss Saturday at Missouri State marked the first Aces defeat this season after they trailed with five minutes to play. Overall, UE is now 10-1 in that situation. It also beat Wichita State after the teams were tied at the five-minute mark.
—Bradley meanwhile struggles late in games. Over the last eight minutes of MVC contests, the Braves have been outscored a cumulative 158-105, including a 15-5 run for UE to end the game in the teams’ first meeting.
—Guard Walt Lemon Jr., the top scorer in that first game between the Aces and Braves with 22 points, averages 17.4 points and 3.6 assists as well as makes 36 percent of 3-pointers in MVC games.
—The combination of Lemon and Dyricus Simms-Edwards in Bradley’s backcourt have coach Geno Ford’s team fifth in the nation with 10.13 steals per game. The Braves had 324 of them on the season and could snap Tulsa’s all-time MVC steals record fo 345 set in the 1983-1984 season.
—Bradley started the week in a four-way tie for fifth in the MVC standings at 5-6 along with Northern Iowa, Drake and Missouri State. UE, at 6-5, is a game ahead in fourth but just two games ahead of ninth-place Illinois State, which is 4-7.
UE coach Marty Simmons on playing Bradley a second time: “Tough matchup. Obvioulsy we had a great game with them here that really could have gone either way. They’re a very competitive team – very tough-minded team. I think Walt Lemon (Jr.) is really playing as well as anybody in the league right now. I think (Dyricus) Simms-Edwards, they form one of the better backcourts in the country with the way they play. (Tyshon) Pickett seems to be playing with a ton of confidence – really aggressive. It’s really a team, a program and a coaching staff that we have a lot of respect for. Playing up at Carver is a great environment. It’ll be a tough matchup.”
Simmons on having just faced the Braves fewer than two weeks ago: “I think it’s obviously a little fresher in their mind that you’ve played them not so long ago, but still you’re going game by game. You’ve got to go back and review. There’s things that teams do add to their system of play and maybe things we didn’t do well that we want to adjust and give another look at. There are things maybe that Bradley’s doing different now that we’ll talk about, show, and approach it with our team.”
Simmons when asked what keys a win or loss when his team plays close games like last week: “There’s a fine line. That Northern Iowa game, I wouldn’t even say it was great execution. We just had some guys step up and make big shots for us. But I’d say the denominator for both of those games was the ability to execute. When we’ve buckled down and executed and made it hard to score defensively. And then the flip side is when we’ve really executed and worked to get shots.”
Simmons on UE senior Colt Ryan’s continual progression: “I think that’s something he’s done each and every year he’s been here is just make himself more complete. The experience he’s been able to gain over the last three years and then sitting out the first few games this season, he just has a sense of urgency in practice. And obviously when he has the opportunity to play games, to be successful.”
Outlook: This game is huge for a number of reasons, not the slightest of them the fact that UE hasn’t been able to win on the road even with four seniors. The Aces will look to do it in a place where they haven’t had much success historically and other Bradley opponents are just 2-10 this season. But a victory would be a big step in terms of staying above .500 in the MVC and away from a potential Thursday game at Arch Madness.