Coach Marty Simmons didn’t like the way his team played last week at Southern Illinois, but it wasn’t he who brought the Aces together for a mandatory team meeting.
UE’s four seniors instead did so, especially to address effort down the stretch of their last season.
“I know they’ve met on certain occasions during the season, and it was brought to my attention that they did then,” Simmons said Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday’s 7 p.m. game against Illinois State at the Ford Center. “It was also brought to my attention that they met again after the Creighton game – not just the seniors but the entire team.
“I just feel like they understand where we’re at. There’s some disappointment. There’s some frustration. But there’s also some motivation to get better, improve, and hopefully play our best basketball here down the stretch.”
Entering Wednesday, UE (14-13, 7-8 Missouri Valley Conference) has lost four of its last five games.
Whereas Southern Illinois scored 17 points off its 15 offensive rebounds, the Aces limited Creighton to two offensive boards in a much closer game against the MVC’s second-place team.
“We just had a meeting, really, talking about the importance from here on out,” said senior Troy Taylor. “It was a players-only thing. No coaches. We just talked about the last game and how we didn’t block out at Southern (Illinois) and how they out-physicaled us.
“And then (in the next meeting) we kind of went over some things with Illinois State. It was a players-only thing where everybody talked about what they have to do to help the team out. That’s just something we need to have more of throughout these next couple weeks because next Saturday’s the last home game. It’s coming real quick, so we need to gear it up ASAP.”
Freshman Adam Wing said the message got through.
Wing, who made his first start last Saturday against Creighton, played with Taylor, Colt Ryan, Ned Cox and Lewis Jones in mind. Those fourth-year players have just two home games left as Aces.
“What they’ve done for this program is remarkable how they’ve brought it back up to being respectable again,” Wing said. “I don’t want them to leave here holding their heads down, so I’m going to work hard just for those four seniors.
“I do play for them for what they’ve done for this program – all the heart, the time, the effort.”