The men’s basketball team opened their season with a definitive performance against the Fontbonne University Griffins on Tuesday night. Sophomore guard Cam Williams scored the first basket 17 seconds into the game and the Cougars didn’t give up the lead once on the way to their 104-57 win.
The game marked Head Coach Brian Barone’s first win as SIUE’s head coach since he was promoted from assistant coach in March.
“These guys mean a lot to me. I’m proud of this team, and I care a lot about them. It’s a journey that we’re gonna go [on] together,” Barone said. “It sounds deep, it sounds cheesy — whatever it is, those are facts.”
The game marked the second time the Cougars played against the Division III Griffins. They last met in an exhibition in 2015 where SIUE won with a score of 80-48.
Senior guard Tyresse Williford, who was the top point-earner the night with 15 points, said he didn’t agree with the Ohio Valley Conference preseason rankings that put the Cougars at No. 10 out of the 12 teams in the conference.
“This year, we’ve really got a point to prove. We want to go out there, not just for ourselves,
but just for SIUE as a whole," Williford said. “We want to prove to everybody that we’re somebody you should look for when you play us.”
Freshman forward Lamar Wright lead the team in rebounds with 7 overall. Wright also lead the team in fouls with 5 of the team’s 21 overall. Sophomore guard Cam Williams led the team in assists with 5.
The team made 45 of 68 field goals and 6 out of 8 3-pointers for a total shooting percentage of 59.3 percent. Barone said the team did well overall, and that the team’s defensive play allowed them to play the style of offense they wanted to play.
“Those guys executed our defensive game plan relatively well, and it allowed us to break. I may not be smart, but I’m not overly stupid. I want to get out and go. I want to give the ball to Tyresse. I want Zeke [Moore] to rebound and push it off the break so that Ty can get off in transition, Cam Williams can take the ball off the glass,” Barone said. “We don’t want to be a team that just grinds it out in the half court. Now, we have to be prepared for that, because in a heck of a league, and we have a heck of schedule, and people are gonna be prepared So, we’re gonna have to be able to execute in the half court as well.”
Despite his praises, Barone said there was still room for the team to improve.
“I think we’ve got to box out a little bit more, physically. That’s very important. We have to be willing to reverse the ball, and really look inside as well. I don’t want to say it’s hard when you’re making shots, because that makes the game easier, but sometimes you get away from looking inside, playing inside out. When you make three or four, your transition game is what it was tonight.
Junior guard Mike Adewunmi said the team needs to make sure to work together through the season.
“We know we’re gonna see a lot of adversity this year,” Adewunmi said. “A lot of it is new, so it’s important we have each other’s back.”
Williford said the overall strength of the roster is going to help out the team in their tougher games.
“Going against anybody in this conference, you gotta be prepared. So, to have that depth and be able to throw different weapons at teams, that’s gonna help us a bunch,” Williford said.
The Cougars start regular season play with a 7:30 p.m. game next Tuesday at home against the Quincy University Hawks.