The score: WSU 67, Evansville 66
Key statistics: Shocker center Garrett Stutz scored a career-high 29 points, making 12 of 14 shots. WSU made 26 of 44 shots (59.1 percent) for the game, but committed 16 turnovers.
Records: WSU 11-3, 2-1 MVC; UE 7-6, 2-1
My theory about Stutz is that his talents won’t really be appreciated until next season. When he’s gone, coaches, fans and the media will understand how nice it is to have a player with that size and skill. When he’s here, we tend to focus on what he’s not. Next season, we find out what it’s like without a 7-foot scoring option. The Aces couldn’t handle Stutz and WSU used that weakness all night. It looks easy, but that doesn’t give the Aces credit. Stutz did a good job moving quickly to the hoop to beat Evansville’s swarming defense. While he did have six turnovers, he also made the Aces pay for doubling him with some nice assists for baskets. “We just seemed a step late defensively all night with our double teams,” Aces coach Marty Simmons said. “They do some really good things to get the ball in there deep to him. He’s just a big, strong, really good player.” I’m definitely in the camp of grabbing every road victory gladly and not getting bogged down in the hows. Evansville isn’t going to remain in first place for too long – its lack of size is too much to overcome. But the Aces will be a tough team to beat at home because they shoot well and plays hard. WSU made some mistakes in the final minutes that it will need to avoid against better teams. It led 61-51 when the turnovers began to mount, allowing Evansville to rally. Twice in the final minutes, the Aces made the Shockers turn the ball over scrambling to beat the shot clock. Toure Murry made a silly foul on Colt Ryan in the open court late in the game that put the MVC’s second-best free-throw shooter on the line. WSU made some similar mistakes late in the game against Creighton. The Shockers tried to push the ball after missed shots early in the game to avoid playing against Evansville’s half-court defense. Point guard Joe Ragland got a charging foul – his second – pushing too hard and the foul trouble ruined his night. Ragland committed five turnovers (one assist) and played only 22 minutes. After a stretch in which he played as well as any MVC point guard, Ragland is off his game in the past two. Demetric Williams started for the first time since Puerto Rico and played 25 solid minutes. He handed out four assists (one turnover) and scored six points. The one turnover came on a charge when Williams had to drive to the basket late in the shot clock. One a night when Ragland wasn’t at his best, Williams came through. Evansville’s Ford Center is a great addition to the Valley’s home courts. It should help the Aces in recruiting. It’s a good-looking arena that has much more of a “wow” factor than ancient Roberts Stadium. Six MVC teams are 2-1. Three are 1-2. Bradley is 0-3. Evansville’s Colt Ryan is averaging 28.3 points in three MVC games. He is 11 of 20 from three-point range in MVC games.
Next up: at Southern Illinois, 2:05 p.m., Saturday