Stories from UE’s 72-62 men’s loss to Indiana State and 55-54 women’s victory over the Sycamores on Saturday in Terre Haute:
—Courier & Press: UE goes cold again in loss to Indiana State
—TribStar.com: Indiana State wins battle royale with UE
—Courier & Press: Aces women hold off Indiana State to extend winning streak
—TribStar.com: Rivalry re-born as UE beats Sycamore women
—UE student Bryce Weiler: Aces lose two on the road
Some observations from both games:
—Going back to UE’s exhibition win over the University of Southern Indiana in October, when the Aces needed 33 points and 30-plus minutes from senior Colt Ryan, coach Marty Simmons’ message was: “That’s just who we are.” Saturday’s loss exemplified that. Ryan operated like normal, scoring 19 points on 6 of 14 shooting. But Indiana State held the all-MVC forward to just five points on two shots in the first half and had Ryan visibly frustrated as the Sycamores pulled away from a cold-shooting UE team. Indiana State came in with the right blue print: contain Ryan, contain the Aces. Now comes the key point in the season. Can someone else finally step up and become a consistent threat for 15-plus points a game alongside Ryan?
—UE’s offensive woes seem to have popped up only recently — “I don’t think we’ve struggled like this” before, Simmons said — and they seem easily fix-able. There were possessions when the Aces seemed to stand still on their end of the court instead of at least (pun intended) going through the motions. Credit Indiana State for some of that. Like with a baseball pitcher who’s really on, sometimes the opponent needs to tip its cap. After a 7 for 8 shooting start by UE, the Sycamores upped their defensive intensity and often had the Aces working late in the shot clock. UE shot 28.6 percent in the second half and, combined with the Drake game, the Aces went 17 of 64 from the field in the second half. A little more movement — and Simmons acknowledged that afterward — will go a long way.
—The UE women are officially a team to watch. I don’t mean that in terms of the MVC standings, but literally. Go to the Ford Center. See them play. Attracting a decent, supportive fan base is the next step for a program that, at least over the last five games, has shown the ability to play at a championship level. Especially now with sophomore Mallory Ladd active, the Aces are a different bunch than the one that lost eight non-conference games in a row. Coach Oties Epps’ squad deserves a different-sized crowd now too than the announced 204 fans that saw his team lose during that streak to Tennessee-Martin. Epps is bringing recruits in at a steady rate, but to get a next-level type of player (see Mater Dei’s Maura Muensterman, who’s now been offered by Indiana) those prospects probably want to see some folks in the stands as lively as Epps’ bench.
—Speaking of Ladd and the UE women, it’s the Memorial High School graduate who has a chance to become the face of that program for the next three seasons as Ryan has for the men. She’s a recognizable hometown player who Epps can — and is — building much of the Aces’ offense around already. And Ladd is joined by Harrison High School grad Khristian Hart, another sophomore and scorer averaging double figures. The future seems bright for local girls’ talent staying home to play Division I hoops, at least so long as Epps is in town. Something else to watch: Ladd’s double-double streak ended Saturday, mostly due to foul trouble that limited her time in the first half, but she’s now hit 44 consecutive free throw attempts. The MVC record is somewhere in the 60s.