While women’s basketball dominated Purdue Fort Wayne the first chance they had to get back on the court, men’s basketball took two losses before securing their first win.
From the beginning of their game on Saturday, Nov. 28, the men’s team showed University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy St. Louis they weren’t going to let up. The Cougars took an early lead and finished with an 80-45 win
During this game, all 12 of the Cougar’s available players got time to play, and every one of them scored at least one point. Men’s basketball Head Coach Barone said it was important that every player was able to get time on the court together, especially those who didn’t see the court as much last year.
One such player is sophomore forward Lamar Wright, who scored 10 points during Saturday’s game, beating his previous career high of six.
“Looking back on it, it’s always easy to say, ‘Oh, I could have played him more,’ but what he did is he just got better every single day,” Barone said. “He utilized this summer, even though we’re all kind of isolated, him and his brother really did a good job of continuing to develop and work, and he’s earned the opportunity. The thing he does is he plays really hard, and that’s a talent these days, and it’s a luxury to have a guy of his size and want-to on our team.”
In addition to Wright, junior forward Sidney Wilson is getting a taste of being a Cougar on the court, as he transferred to SIUE this semester. He scored 15 points on Saturday. According to Barone, Wilson and senior guard Mike Adewunmi are the epitome of team chemistry.
“[Wilson] is really getting more and more acclimated,” Barone said. “He has a lot of talent. He has a knack to be able to play inside and out. It’s again, just that timing and playing with one another that I think is where [Adewunmi and Wilson] will continue to thrive.”
Junior guard Courtney Carter brought eight assists and five rebounds for the Cougars this game. Barone said Carter helps secure winning results in many ways.
“When he was in junior college, he was the National Junior College Player of the Year,” Barone said. “You would go watch him play, and sometimes you didn’t notice what he did until after you saw the stat sheet, and he had assists, he had steals, he had points, he had rebounds … Courtney is a leader in the way that he lives, in the way he handles himself, and as our team gets time on the court together I think he will continue to pick up that role and stuff the stat sheet as he always had.”
This success was not without a rocky road before. The team had two losses earlier in the week on Wednesday and Thursday. However, Barone took these losses as an opportunity to help better his players.
On Wednesday, Barone challenged junior forward/center Philip Pepple Jr. to get more than his one rebound the game before, and Pepple exceeded expectations by pulling in 10 rebounds on Thursday. Barone said he was particularly proud of how Pepple handled the week’s competition, especially when up against St. Louis teams.
“Pepple, first of all, he’s a great person,” Barone said. “I mean he’s a high, high level person, and these games are important. These kids are competing in different environments, and his was in Casper, Wyoming, but you have to figure it out and then you’re going against a really well coached St. Louis team your first time with someone other than me reffing … but how he responded the next day to the same type of talent was really impressive, and everyday this young man continues to get better.”
Barone said despite the rough start on Wednesday and Thursday, he is excited the team got the chance to travel for games.
“You just have to pivot, but you know, what we did is we got in some vans, drove across the river and played a college basketball game, which is pretty awesome,” Barone said. “Our guys did it in a way where we showed our rust, but I was proud that behind the scenes and in the process to even get here, we did it in a way that really showed team unity.”
Barone said he wants to continue in pushing his team to share the ball even more, improve rebounds and get more time together moving forward in the season.
“I think continuing [forward] I’d like to rebound better,” Barone said. “I would like to hit a little bit better. There were moments where we did it and moments where we did not, and just continuing to make that extra pass, like point five seconds sooner … they’re willing to pass it. They’re very willing passers, we just have to do it with a little bit better timing and that’s going to come with more games. That’s going to come with more time with one another.”
The Cougars dominated their first and only game last week, leading to a 66-50 win against Purdue Fort Wayne. Women’s basketball head coach Paula Buscher said they played solidly right out the gate.
“Just in basketball, it’s such a game of runs and I felt we came out strong … and they shot the ball very well. They hit some big shots, so give them credit,” Buscher said.
Buscher said sophomore forward Ajulu Thatha and freshman forward Madison Webb really stood out to her in this game, but quick to note the result wasn’t because of two players alone.
“I think we had a lot of players that made a difference, and sometimes it’s the little things in the game that make the big difference,” Buscher said. “I thought Ajulu just adjusted to playing the middle of the zone and we haven’t had her there a ton. I thought she made a great adjustment there, but it really wasn’t one individual player. I mean, I thought Madison Webb, a freshman, started off the game strong, and then because of the way they were playing in match ups, I didn’t have her in there as much.”
Despite some push back in the middle of the game, Buscher said the team came back strong in the last quarter.
“In really the third and the second [quarters], the problem wasn’t as much with our defense as it was offensively,” Buscher said. “We were just turning the ball over, we were trying to attack the basket, maybe try to score a little bit too soon in some shot clock situations when we could have reversed it a little bit better and showed a little bit more poise on the offensive end.”
Buscher said even though the team had a lot of turnovers in this game, she doesn’t anticipate this being an issue throughout the season.
“Our turnovers were really different this game,” Buscher said. “Some of them were some great passes that were just sliding through peoples’ hands, which, that’s a focus thing. It was from us trying to speed up the tempo of the game, so it’s not something that I foresee as continuing to be a problem. I kind of look at it as something we all need to work on and make sure we’re all doing a better job with ball security.”
Although she did not play in the game on Wednesday, junior forward Kelsie Williams said she was happy to cheer her team on, which is important due to the lack of an in-person audience.
“We really want our teammates on the benches to be really spirited and have a lot of energy to try to compensate. Even though it isn’t a full audience, it’s something, and it’s better than nothing,” Williams said. “The lineup at the beginning of the game, where [the team was] all there, really made it feel real. I heard all my teammates’ names get called, and it felt like the season actually started.”
Buscher said the team is looking to move forward after a rocky last season, which left them with a 3-26 record. The team has gained several new recruits, which Buscher said she thinks will help them be more successful this season.
“We’ve put last season behind us. It was a tough season, but I think we learned so much about ourselves as individuals, but that’s behind us and this is a new year, new season, we’ve got an influx of I think six new players, so we just honestly flushed last season, and we’re ready for this season,” Buscher said. “Winning is tough any time, but winning on the road is extremely hard, so I’m really thankful and proud of how our players handled the game today, and I’m looking forward to having a real positive season.”
For more information, go to the SIUE Athletics website.