UE (11-8, 4-3 Missouri Valley Conference) dropped its second game in a row Saturday, 72-62 to Indiana State on the road, finishing a stretch of three games in seven days on a low note considering where things started.
It was just last Sunday the Aces upset then-ranked Wichita State (a winner Saturday over Creighton, by the way).
Said UE senior Troy Taylor: “We have to stop the bleeding. Me, Colt (Ryan), Ned (Cox) and Lewis (Jones) need to be the ones who step up. We have a day off tomorrow, but we as players are going to get in the gym and get shots up. We’re going to do things like that without the coaches. It’s another way we can get better because we can’t take any days off, especially this time of year. As seniors, this is our last year. We have to do everything we can. We’re not trying to go out with a .500 record. We’re trying to leave with a bang.”
The Indiana State loss looked much like the Aces’ defeat earlier this week at Drake. Lead by double digits on the road but go cold in the second half. “Without watching the tape, I’d say similar,” said UE coach Marty Simmons. “(Indiana State) really competed hard, and they took us out of a lot of stuff. They raised their intensity level, I thought, and we just didn’t respond the way you have to. We’ve got to have more movement in the half court. We’re standing too much. It allows their defense to get set in the gaps and take away our penetration. We’ve got to have some guys step up and take some shots.”
Simmons on what to do about offense moving forward, considering the Aces went a combined 17 of 64 in their second halves against Drake and Indiana State: “I don’t think we’ve struggled like this to score, and I don’t think we’ll continue to struggle like this. We just have to keep working – keep getting better. Confidence…is something we’ve talked about a lot. It’s a fickle thing, and we’ve got to get in the gym, get guys making shots in practice, and we’ve got to have some carryover into games.”
Taylor diagnoses the offense’s problems: “I feel like we just have to keep moving. There were times when coach said we were playing as a team. Once we got going as individuals, it started to break down. That’s when we got the turnovers and were making crazy mistakes and things such as that. I think we’ve got to keep moving as well. There were times we were just stagnant, and everyone would just watch the person with the ball. We’ll just have to watch film and correct every little mistake, because we’ve got to get out of this slump.”
But when the Aces’ sets are clicking, they’re hard to defend. Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said his team tried to take Ryan out of his game. “It’s no fun having to guard a guy like Colt Ryan, and it’s no fun having to guard some of their players with their movement,” Lansing said. “They’re the best motion team in the country. It’s a true motion. You have to be locked in and play an entire possession. I thought we made players other than Colt make shots in the first half, and they did. In the second half, we’d guard awfully well and they’d get a second shot. That’s to their credit. That’s who they are. They’re a difficult team to defend.”
Ryan scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half Saturday, including seven straight for the Aces to get them back in contention before a dagger 3-pointer by Indiana State’s Lucas Eitel. “They played good, fundamental defense,” Simmons said. “Obviously teams are going to show a lot of help to Colt, and I think he just continued to work hard. His teammates continued to screen for him hard. He just maintained that aggressiveness that he normally does. We need more balance within our team offensively.”
Indiana State did have to come back from 11 points down to lock up the win. They did it by borrowing a page from UE’s book. “We have tons of respect for that coaching staff and their players for the way they play – toughness,” Lansing said. “It’s a big thing we talk about. We put that on the board at halftime. They were tougher than us in the first half, and that’s why they win. They have four seniors. They’ve had their feet in the fire. They’ve been through a lot of wars together.”