Against Butler on Saturday, UE (7-5) lost its fourth game this season to an opponent that was ranked or receiving votes in a national poll. The Bulldogs (9-2) led by as many as 14 points and held on late for a 75-67 win in front of 9,190 fans at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
UE coach Marty Simmons on the loss: “We’ve got to be able to execute better for 40 minutes. We did a lot of good things, and that’s one – being resilient there and not giving up. But it’s just little things against good basketball teams that you cannot do, or they’re going to punch you in the mouth.”
Butler coach Brad Stevens on his team’s turnaround from a deficit in the first half: “We didn’t do a good enough job of getting the ball inside for the first 30 minutes. Then once we did, we sort of separated ourselves a little bit. They put us in tough spots. Another one of the thing that’s unheralded about Evansville is they turn you over. They’re in the top 15 in the country, I think, on Kenpom.com in turning people over. We added to that – added to the resume.”
Senior Ned Cox blamed UE’s letdown in the stretch more on the Aces than Butler. “All credit to Butler, but a lot of what they did well was mis-execution on our part,” Cox said. “There were times that we did show fight, but we’ve got to be able to do that for the full 40 minutes. There were too many times when we let up and let them extend that lead a little bit. Then we’d have to try to come back. We just have to be able to put multiple possessions together and not have those let-up segments.”
Senior Colt Ryan, who scored a game-high points and nine of UE’s last 12 during the rally, also blamed inconsistency. “We just didn’t have that one time in the game where we just put everything together for a four- or five-minute stretch and got over the hump – change the way the game was going,” Ryan said.
Defensively, Simmons said much of UE’s defensive strategy revolved around stopping 3-pointers. “You have to. (Rotnei) Clarke is dynamite,” Simmons said. Finally, Clarke hit a big one with 4:29 left that gave Butler its largest lead. “He’s given them such another dimension with his ability to shoot from 30 feet and in,” Simmons said of Clarke, who scored 20 points to go with 20 from fellow senior Andrew Smith. “It really stretches you. It stretches your bigs up there to give support on the high ball screens. I thought for the most part we really did a good job. They’re such a versatile team that can put so many different lineups out there. They can put four or five good shooters out there.”
UE did turn the ball over just 10 times, three in the second half. “That’s a positive for us,” Simmons said. “That’s huge. Anytime you play Butler, that’s going to be one of the key stats. And we have to play that way. We’re not going to wow anybody with our physical size or anything like that. We’ve got to be a team that values the ball.”
After a UE victory and one over top-ranked Indiana last weekend, Butler moved to 5-0 against in-state schools with the win. That’s “better than last year,” Stevens said. “That’s the way I feel about it. I didn’t even really think about it until you mentioned it. It’s important to me. It’s important to these guys to play well against the teams that are in your state. Now I said this earlier, we can play well against Evansville and lose. But we were fortunate to play well enough today to win.”
Sophomore Jaylon Moore did not play. Simmons said he’s not hurt. “Just the way the game was going there, we thought (Ryan) Sawvell was giving good minutes. And then late, we decided to go small – decided to go with Sawvell at the five today just because of matchup purposes.