UE upset No. 23 Wichita State on Sunday by a 71-67 score at the Ford Center, marking the Aces’ fourth straight victory and first this season over a ranked opponent.
UE coach Marty Simmons’ opening statement: “We were fortunate, and we’re excited. I’ve got such respect for coach Marshall and just how hard they play – just how good they are. I’m just really proud of our team and how they hung in there together and competed for the full 40 minutes.”
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall’s opening statement: “Congratulations to Evansville. Hard-fought game. They certainly made the plays – made the shots at the end – to win. We lost to a good basketball team in a tough place. Marty does a very fine job.”
The victory moved UE to second in the MVC standings behind Creighton. “We’re not satisfied by any means,” said senior Colt Ryan. “We don’t feel like we’ve arrived. We’re trying to get better each and every day, and we’ll see where it’s at in the end of the year.”
Ryan’s 24 points led all scorers, and the Aces shot 44.9 percent from the field. After a 3-pointer from freshman D.J. Balentine with 7:20 to play, the Aces never trailed again. “I think at the beginning of the game, we took a few quick shots that weren’t really in our offense or the rest of the team isn’t really expecting the player to take it,” Ryan said. “Later on in the game, we were setting some good down screens, they weren’t extending as much and we were able to get some good shots to kind of stop their run. That’s what you have to do against a good team like Wichita State.”
Wichita State committed a season-high 22 turnovers, and UE scored 27 points off them. “We were sloppy with the ball,” Marshall said. “Twenty-two turnovers is the story for us. We’ve got to do a better job. They’re very ratty – a good defensive team.”
Simmons on how UE forced those turnovers: “We’ll have to watch the tape. That obviously on the stat sheet was a big thing, and we’ll just have to go back and look. They shot a high percentage, but our guys were active. They were flying around, and I’m sure it played a factor.”
The announced crowd at the Ford Center wasn’t the largest this season — 5,485 — but it may have been the loudest. “We couldn’t do it without the crowd,” said senior Troy Taylor. “It got to a point where we were down by five, made a couple plays and the crowd got into the game – got loud – and the Wichita players got flustered and turned it over. I give credit to them. They help us out tremendously. It’s like a sixth man on the court.”
Simmons assesses the Aces’ overall game: “Probably the most unselfish we’ve played. I just saw a lot of guys out there trying to help each other and encourage for each other and playing for each other.”
The best performance so far? “Probably so,” Simmons said.