Stories from UE’s 84-72 win over Tennessee State in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament’s first round:
—UE’s senior class had one Missouri Valley Conference tournament game and one College Basketball Invitational victory to its name before last night. The Aces made postseason win No. 3 look pretty easy, and they did it by having fun. This is an intense bunch during the regular season, when UE’s still playing for an MVC championship. But the Aces loosened up a bit Tuesday night — let themselves smile and laugh a little on the court — and they figured out how to win a tournament game running away. That’s not to say they should have second thoughts about how they approached the 51-50 loss to Indiana State at Arch Madness. The MVC tournament is simply a different animal than the CIT. But moving forward in the CIT, basketball should be fun. The wins may keep coming.
—Memo to future opponents: Don’t press the Aces. Miami (Ohio) tried it earlier this season. Didn’t work. Wichita State imparts some full-court looks. UE swept the Shockers. And then Tennessee State, obviously the quick and athletic team coach Marty Simmons promised, was dropping back into a 2-3 zone by the end of the first half, already down double digits thanks to the Aces’ press break and transition game. The only time the press worked was late in the second half, while UE led by 20 points and did appear to let up a bit. At the same time, as Simmons pointed out, the Aces missed a number of layups during that stretch and an open Troy Taylor jumper.
—This was a postseason game for UE’s seniors, but there was a certain preseason aspect for all the underclassmen who will be left next year. Sophomore Jordan Nelson hit 3 of 4 3-pointers, Jaylon Moore made all three of his shots (including a monster putback dunk), and freshman Egidijus Mockevicius went for what’s become a routine eight points and eight rebounds. The Aces lose quite a bit heading into next season, sure, though a down year or “bridge season” building to the next is unlikely. What Simmons will have on that roster is every bit as capable of winning 18 games just as this season’s team did.
—UE won’t know its next CIT opponent until other first-round games are completed Wednesday night. The Aces will go on the road for round two with conflicts at the Ford Center this weekend (Evansville IceMen hockey on both Friday and Saturday). Other winners from Tuesday included Eastern Kentucky, but word is EKU won’t host. There’s a price tag attached to that in the CIT, and with an attendance of 2,324 last night, UE either broke even or came out a little behind in the whole deal. Ratings percentage index of other CIT teams to win last night: 69th (EKU), 99th (Loyola Maryland), 104th (East Carolina), 106th (UE), 146th (Rider) and 188th (Youngstown State).