Stories from UE’s 84-83 win over Canisius in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament quarterfinals:
—What’s left to say about Colt Ryan? How many times can that be written or said? Here’s another. Some programs scoff at playing in a postseason event such as the CIT, but Ryan’s embraced it. He’s a competitor, and that’s what he does — compete. Most teams in the CIT will say that, but the Aces have backed it up with their actions. That effort is led by Ryan. He’s not the fastest sprinter or tallest jumper, but give the 6-foot-5 forward some space and he’ll hit a jumper from anywhere. He continues to make smart plays, drawing fouls at both ends and sacrificing himself. Yes, Colt, we saw you shrug off a jammed finger before scoring 30 points in the second half. The performance had Canisius’ announcers proclaiming him an NBA prospect. That’s not too hard to imagine. Ryan will make it as a pro somewhere.
—Back at home Tuesday, fans packed two theaters at Showplace Cinemas. There were few who could make the trip to Buffalo, N.Y., especially on short notice (Ryan’s family was there, of course) but the select following for this team into the postseason remains strong. I made this point after the Eastern Kentucky win — that with the true fans left, their support seems to grow more for this group after every game. Filling a couple theaters to watch a choppy web stream produced by the other team seems another indication of that. The Aces have their most postseason wins in the Division I era, the school’s all-time scorer and 21 wins, with 23 possible. Yes, it’s just the CIT. But this is a run that will be remembered.
—UE remains inconsistent at both ends, with an inability to score sometimes and swiss cheese defense in spurts on the other end. The offensive struggles come down to sufficient movement in the offense to create open shots. And then the mid-range jumpers have to fall, which is never a sure thing. But gone are the lengthy scoring droughts. Defensively, the Aces are at their worst when opponents are allowed dribble penetration and another defender has to help cover the driver. Canisius guard Reggie Groves forced plenty of that Tuesday. The Aces fixed that before the game ended, too, as the inconsistent trends are getting shorter and shorter during this CIT. UE has erupted to score at least 80 points in three straight games — most of those in the second half.
—Credit a tough schedule for this (wins in seven of eight games). Should UE and Northern Iowa win their semifinals (the Panthers host the winner of Weber State and Oral Roberts), that would set up an all-Missouri Valley Conference championship game. The MVC’s .786 winning percentage in the postseason is the best of any league, and it’s likely members will compile a combined record number of wins. The previous mark is 12. There are already 11 with Wichita State also still playing in the NCAA tournament. As of Tuesday night, there were 32 Division I teams left.