You play to win the game

Pat Hickey

There is absolutely no reason why the USI and UE basketball teams can’t play every year. Besides the Aces’ fear of losing to a Division II team, that is.

Four years ago, it took the UE men’s squad double overtime to edge off USI by four points in front of 9,500 fans at Roberts Stadium. In 2006, the Aces won by just two points in front of 11,500 fans.

When the two teams meet this fall, there will most likely be a sold-out crowd at the Ford Center – a state of the art, multi-purpose facility that opened up last November and seats 10,000 for basketball games. The matchup is great for the city of Evansville and makes obvious sense financially.

So why is UE afraid of making this an every-year deal? The Aces are expected to win. They have a deeper roster, play against more talented competition and the game is on their home court. Chaos would ensue if they lost.

Then again, the game doesn’t count in the win-loss column. Division I and II teams are not allowed to play against each other in a meaningful game. Exhibition games are designed for teams to play against someone other than themselves as a tune-up for the regular season. The players will still be going full-speed, but the coaches typically use these games to see what works and what doesn’t. That means there are going to be players seeing the court in situations where they otherwise might not.

Both men’s teams must replace top scorers from their teams last year, meaning there will be much shuffling of rosters on both sides.

On Oct. 27, USI men’s coach Rodney Watson will coach in his first match-up between the crosstown rivals. He vividly remembers the atmosphere when his team upset No. 1 ranked Bellarmine at home this past February.

To quote former New York Jets head coach Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game.”