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UE blew another double-digit lead on the road before falling Saturday at Missouri State, 62-61, for the Aces’ fourth straight Missouri Valley Conference loss away from the Ford Center.

Coach Marty Simmons was quick to not lump this road defeat in with the others. “I just think people have to understand,” Simmons said. “Too many times they just look at the score of the game. They don’t look at the environment that you’re playing in or the coach you’re playing against or the players you’re playing against. Sometimes it’s a little tougher than meets the eye, and I thought the thing that was different about today was the guys competed hard for 40 minutes. I don’t have any problem whatsoever with the effort. At times we just didn’t execute at the level we need to. I am certainly proud of how my guys played today.”

The Aces held Missouri State to just 27 percent shooting in the first half but allowed the Bears to break out in the second, going 54 percent from the field. Simmons breaks down where defense went awry: “We defended probably as good as we have all year in the first half. When you hold a team to 27 percent, you’re doing some things right out there. Where I thought we had some let ups in the second half is our on-the-ball defense. We got into a scramble situation. We didn’t show the support off those ball screens like we had in the first half. Egidijus (Mockevicius) got beat a little bit off the dribble. Jaylon (Moore) had trouble helping there. Our guys got stuck on the screens a little too long, and you’re in a scramble. Now you’re helping on guys you don’t really want to help on, then (Nathan) Scheer knocks in some 3s. Again, it comes down to team defense and really defensive fundamentals – being able to guard the basketball and execute your ball screen coverage to where you don’t get into a scramble.”

UE blew an 11-point lead with 14:56 to go in the loss. Missouri State senior Anthony Downing hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 43 seconds left, after which the Aces had two more chances. The first came when senior Colt Ryan missed a baseline jumper. “I was just going to get a catch on the wing and create,” Ryan said. “We were a little worried about them trapping, and I kind of had to go right away. I got a good look at the basket. I just didn’t get it done – missed.”

Next, after Bears freshman Marcus Marshall missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Aces had to go the length of the court in a matter of seconds. Freshman Adam Wing threw to sophomore Jaylon More, who handed off to Ned Cox. “We’ve gone over it in practice before, and the execution of the play worked perfectly,” Cox said. “I just didn’t finish it…We didn’t do enough to get a win. We’ve got to take that and try to learn from mistakes – keep building on things we did well and get ready for Bradley.”

Added Simmons on the final play: “The assistant coaches did a great job of drawing that thing up. They were ready. Coach (Jimmy) Eglas had it diagrammed. We just executed it pretty darn good. Give Missouri State credit. They had a guy there underneath the bucket to challenge the shot, and we just didn’t get it done.”

UE started hot in the second half, hitting 6 of its first 9 shots to take its largest lead. Missouri State chipped away from there before taking its first lead of the half on junior Nathan Scheer’s 3-pointer at the 2:45 mark. “We’ve got to finish at the rim better,” Simmons said. “We had a lot of layup opportunities – inside opportunities where we just didn’t get the basketball in the rim. That puts a lot of pressure on you in a tight game like this.”

The Aces have a short turnaround before Tuesday’s game at Bradley. “We’ve got a long way to go,” Simmons said. “There’s a lot of the season left, and if there’s anything at all good about something like this, it has to be that you learn from it and take from it to motivate you to get better in practice and prepare to play Bradley on Tuesday.”

Ryan echoed that, even as UE’s chances at a regular-season MVC title dwindle. “We’re not done,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot of season left. In the (MVC) tournament, you put three or four good games together and you make it to the big dance anyway. We’re not quitting on the season by any means. Just in life in general – not to quit and always persevere – that’s kind of the Evansville way.”

 

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