Stories from UE’s 86-72 win over Eastern Kentucky in a second-round CollegeInsider.com Tournament game:
—There’s one main reason I can think for why the PAC got so loud yesterday despite a crowd of fewer than 2,000. What’s left of fans at games are the ones who really care — same ones as who make noise in the Ford Center. Kudos to those people for continuing to follow a group of seniors as they look for a championship. The players absolutely recognize this. Still, though the Ford Center is booked this week Wednesday through Saturday for Disney On Ice, there’s more reason than that why UE won’t be hosting a third-round CIT game. On top of the regular rent paid to the Ford Center for a game, UE would owe the CIT another fee. Drawing crowds under 3,000 means operating at a loss, which the Aces’ athletic department has done twice already.
—UE’s bench has stepped up its game in the CIT, most recently out-scoring EKU’s reserves 28-15. When freshman D.J. Balentine goes for 11 points, it opens up scoring options for senior Troy Taylor, who tallied a career-high 16 against the Colonels. But as a whole, good bench play lets the starters loosen up a bit. There’s not as much pressure to produce all the offense, and that’s been key in both games where UE’s dominated the second half. Not to say the effort and intensity are any less, but there’s definitely a more relaxed feel for the Aces in this CIT. And it’s helping a bunch that had won just two postseason games — one in the College Basketball Invitational and the other the Missouri Valley Tournament — before this CIT.
—Senior Colt Ryan is nine points form the all-time scoring record at UE, which Larry Humes currently holds. Ryan will most likely get it, yes, but comparing the two just doesn’t seem right. There’s the obvious — Humes only had three years and no 3-point line. But Ryan’s made his mark in the MVC and arguably in one of the conference’s most competitive eras. Just look at what MVC teams have done this postseason — one loss heading into Sunday, with Indiana State in the National Invitation Tournament. And Ryan’s on the league’s top 10 scoring list. So though the three years/3-point line arguments have validity, recognize what Ryan’s done as pretty special, too.