Averaging 21 points per game in his first three Missouri Valley Conference games of the season, Ryan Taylor matched that output once again on Saturday, scoring 21 as the University of Evansville men’s basketball team took a 68-44 win over Bradley on Saturday inside the Ford Center.
Taylor hit 8 of his 17 field goals on the day and was 4-for-6 from outside. He was one of three to hit double figures for the Purple Aces (11-6, 1-3 MVC). Dru Smith finished the day with 14 points while Blake Simmons had 12. The offense was rolling as the Aces were credited with 23 assists on 25 makes. K.J. Riley posted seven while Smith and Simmons finished with six and five, respectively.
“Bradley plays as hard as anybody we will see all year and it was up to us to match them,” UE head coach Marty Simmons said after the win. “This is about as hard as we have played all season.”
“We had a good practice yesterday and it really carried over into today,” Simmons added.
Pacing Bradley (12-5, 2-2 MVC) was Donte Thomas, who had 12 points and four steals. ElIjah Childs hit 5 out of 7 shots to tally 10 points.
“This was a must win based on how close we have been,” Aces senior Blake Simmons explained. “We knew we had to execute, play well and listen to the coaches. We did that and picked up a big win tonight.”
Ryan Taylor opened the day with a triple, accounting for three of his game-high 10 first-half points. UE continued to lead until the Braves tied it at 10-10 on a Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye triples at the 16:19 mark.
The decisive run of the first half came with the Aces up 16-14 with 13:08 on the clock. Evansville reeled off the next 14 points while holding Bradley scoreless for seven minutes. Blake Simmons began the run with a three while Taylor added five in the run to give UE a 30-16 lead with six minutes remaining in the half.
Bradley cut into the lead just a bit with three points in the final two seconds of the period to make it a 35-25 game going into the break. They were able to get within eight points on the first possession of the second stanza before Evansville solidified its advantage.
Up 38-29, the Purple Aces were able to post 10 in a row led by a Noah Frederking 3-pointer and an and-one by Dru Smith. Midway through the half, Frederking’s third field goal of the game set the advantage at 21 points – 52-31.
The lead never got under 19 in the final 10 minutes as the Aces pulled off the win by a final of 68-44.
Frederking had an efficient outing for the squad. He notched seven points on a perfect 3-for-3 shooting and hauled in a career-best five rebounds. Dainius Chatkevicius had a game-high seven caroms and notched six points while Riley added six points and five rebounds to go along with seven assists.
Evansville outshot Bradley by a 49.0%-34.9% tally and finished a perfect 10-10 from the charity stripe. Rebounding also went UE’s way by a 35-22 final.
“We definitely needed this,” Dru Smith said. “As long as we can keep executing the game plan and continue to play hard on defense, we will continue on this path.”
That path continues at the Ford Center on Wednesday as the Aces welcome Missouri State in a 7 p.m. game.