Stories from UE’s 84-78 overtime victory against Drake at the Ford Center:
—Marty Simmons’ go-to comment on his star player since before this season even started: “What more can you say about Colt Ryan?” The way Ryan has played in Missouri Valley Conference games, though, the senior keeps giving you reasons to say more. The most recent milestone — 2,000 career points — is something just two other players in UE’s program history have reached. He’ll soon pass Marcus Wilson, who at 2,053 points is the highest scorer since the Aces moved to Division I. Ryan was asked after Sunday’s game when he’ll look back at everything he’s accomplished at UE. Ryan’s answer: not until it’s over. Then he started talking about an NCAA tournament.
—Sunday’s game provided a perfect snapshot of UE’s current senior class. Ryan scored 33 points, of course, while fellow seniors Ned Cox, Troy Taylor and Lewis Jones stuck to their roles as well. Cox often has to guard the opponent’s best players, and he played a large part in the Aces’ defense out of the half as they clawed back from nine points down. Taylor, despite his 6-foot frame, recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Jones didn’t play outside of himself, going 4 of 7 from the field, and set his usual screens for 31 minutes.
—UE’s going to miss the guys not named Ryan more than most think at this point. Of the 225 minutes logged by Aces players, the four seniors accounted for 146. Freshmen Egidijus Mockevicius (36 minutes) and D.J. Balentine (22 minutes) saw significant playing time in what was essentially a seven-man rotation. Sophomore Jaylon Moore spells Mockevicius while he’s in foul trouble, and freshman Adam Wing sees time when the Aces need a boost on defense. It’s strange to see what’s happened with sophomore Ryan Sawvell not in the mix, given the type of season he had last year. And obviously the Aces are short another substitution — and a guy who showed potential as a starter earlier this season — now that Jordan Jahr’s no longer with the team.
—It’s no secret that UE’s fan base trends older given the Aces’ championship-winning tradition under Arad McCutchan, and lack thereof since the school ousted Jim Crews in the early 2000s. That’s one reason the orange jerseys Simmons’ team wore Sunday should become a regular thing. The uniforms didn’t seem to bother the fan base’s older segment — the regular 4,000 or so showed up — while neon colors had Twitter buzzing a bit in the midst of Grammy discussion. Young people love that stuff. UE needs some young fans. Makes sense to keep wearing the orange, especially if it’s a winning color like last night.
—With the game on ESPN U, I recorded it and watched bits and pieces afterward last night. I never saw a game at Roberts Stadium or how that translated to TV, but it had to do so better than the Ford Center. As a friend texted me, it seems like the atmosphere of an opening-day conference tournament game. Fans are far from the floor. There’s the random blue tarp behind the baseline stands. Oh, and this comment went over well on Twitter: “Sorry, kids. It’s time for the Ford Center to get some real mops/towel folks.” Agree? Anyway, in year one you’d expect some hangups with game day atmosphere Now that it’s year two for the Ford Center, things should change to help the place better accomodate a college basketball game.