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UE won its second straight Missouri Valley Conference game on Saturday and in convincing fashion. The Aces led by as many as 23 points while shooting 57.7 percent from the field against Southern Illinois, moving to 2-1 in MVC play.

The Aces went 30 of 52 from the field and connected on 66.7 percent of their 3-point shots in the second half. UE senior Ned Cox on the offense: “We’ve been getting plenty of shots up in practice, so before today, it wasn’t about us not getting the work in. It was just the confidence level. We came in relaxed, knowing we’re a good shooting team, and it just sort of took the stress off.”

UE senior Colt Ryan said shooting came up before Saturday’s game as a focus: “Coach Simmons made it a point of emphasis that he thought this was the best shooting team he’s had at Evansville. He mentioned that today, and we just kind of took it upon ourselves. We realized we are a good shooting team. We just haven’t been shooting the ball well, and we just made a concentrated effort to make shot.”

Ryan did, by the way, post a season high with 26 points. He made 8 of 13 shots and went a perfect 7 of 7 from the free throw line, still about a month after he had to miss time due to a hip pointer injury. “I’m starting to feel a little better,” Ryan said. “I was talking to coach (Jimmy) Elgas last night and just saying, ‘Finally, my hip’s feeling better.’ I’m getting my function of movement back with everything from it. Every day it seems like over the past few weeks something else is happening. You get hit in the head, jam a finger – something like that – so hopefully, knock on wood I can stay healthy and away from the injuries a little bit.”

Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson certainly didn’t see a Ryan that was playing through pain. “If he was hurting tonight, I don’t want to see him when he’s healthy,” Hinson said. “So if he was hurt tonight, I hope he’s got hurt when he comes to Carbondale. Good gracious. No, he’s not hurt anymore. And any elements he had mentally, physically or spiritually, we took care of those for him tonight.”

Hinson ended up on the worse end of the Aces’ second-best shooting performance, the other coming in non-conference play against Miami (Ohio). “We didn’t do anything well defensively in the second half,” he said. “They shot 67 percent (on 3-pointers). But I think you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. (Ned) Cox got really hot. He was on fire. I swear if he’d cracked an egg, they could have fried it on his backside because he was so hot. You’re talking about a team that shot incredibly the whole night long…They just dissected us. A lot of that had to do with layups, but you look at their 3-point percentage, it was really good.”

UE coach Marty Simmons saw the offense better, however, in the second half than the first. The Aces shot better than 50 percent in both. “I thought in the first half we had some careless turnovers in transition, and two or three times with didn’t capitalize with throwing under-hand passes. I thought in the second half, we played more simpler, and obviously guys made shots. That helps.”

Saturday marked Hinson’s first game coaching in the Ford Center. He previously coached against UE at Roberts Stadium while working at Missouri State. “I’m really happy for Evansville and this new facility,” Hinson said. “I had a tear in my eye when I went by Roberts Stadium today. I can’t believe they’re bulldozing that thing down. I’ve got a lot of good memories in that facility, and I’ve had a lot of tough games with Jimmy (Crews), with Steve (Merfeld) and with Marty (Simmons). It’s kind of hard to play Evansville when they’re not wearing shirts and we don’t have Roberts Stadium. But I do like this new facility, and really appreciative of the city and the community making a stock interest in this program. I think that does nothing but help this program and the city. I’m very proud. I can be proud. I’m part of the Valley.”

Hinson said he didn’t start Desmar Jackson, instead going with a four-guard lineup, due to Jackson’s problems with punctuality at some point this week: “We went four days this week without any drama – four days. We’re like that safety poster that we have at a construction site: ‘We’ve gone 365 days without an injury.’ We’ve gone four days that we haven’t had any drama. We haven’t had one time this year when we’ve made it seven days – not seven days yet when we haven’t had drama. And this is what I told our guys today. I might back off on a lot of things, but I won’t back off of doing what’s right.”

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