By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
It might not be the NCAA. It might not even be the NIT.
But that doesn’t diminish the importance or enthusiasm that Anderson High School graduate Troy Taylor has for what is ahead for his Evansville Aces men’s basketball team.
Thanks to a heart-pounding 84-83 win Tuesday in Buffalo, N.Y., over Canisius, the Aces enter the final four of the Collegeinsider.com Tournament this Saturday.
Evansville (21-14) takes on East Carolina (21-12) in a semifinal game in Greenville, N.C. Tipoff will be at 5 p.m.
The Aces had quite a scrap with the Golden Griffins. They had to rally from a nine-point halftime deficit to get the job done. There were two key components in the comeback win.
The first was 30 points in the second half by Colt Ryan, who became the university’s all-time leading scorer with that output. He broke the mark set by Larry Humes. “Colt played a huge role,” said Taylor in a telephone interview from Evansville. “He is a phenomenal shooter and a phenomenal player.”
The second key was Taylor’s defense. He stole the ball three times during the opening minutes of the second half.
“We knew that tomorrow wasn’t guaranteed,” said Taylor. “We challenged one another to pick it up. I had those steals in the first three minutes. I know the team feeds off the energy of the point guard.”
Evansville wasn’t ready to stop playing together. As a group, the team is close-knit and enjoys each other’s company.
“We really like hanging out with each other,” said Taylor. “We like to play the game together. That’s a huge part of our success. We all have to be on the same page offensively and we have to be on the same page defensively.”
Being on the same page has put Evansville in some rarely charted waters.
“It’s been since 1971 since Evansville has won three postseason games,” said Taylor. “The community here is really behind us. After the game we will be up and shake hands of the fans.”
It won’t be anything new that fans of East Carolina will likely outnumber the fans of the Aces this weekend.
“In New York, there were about 2,000 fans (for Canisius) to about 15 fans for us,” said Taylor. “But it was all right. We had a good time in New York. I saw Niagra Falls. I’d never seen that before.”
Now there will be a plane trip going east again. Taylor isn’t quite certain of the destination.
“We’re going to fly to Carolina,” he said. “I’m not sure where. We’ll leave in a couple of days. We’ve won seven of eight games. We’re extremely confident. Everyone on this team knows their roles. We’ve grown into them. When we play like that, we’re difficult to beat.”