I left Champaign Monday feeling pretty good about myself, about my team and life in general. I didn't really feel that way Thursday. It was a busy day for me. First, I intern at a public relations firm in downtown St. Louis and was there until about 3 p.m. Luckily, they let me out early so I could drive to Normal for what I expected to be a pretty close basketball game. It was far from it.
SIUE shot 25 percent from the field, three days after they shot 29 against Illinois and managed to stay in the game for the most part. Pretty much anything SIUE did Thursday was not going to work. The Cougars were getting good looks. None of those looks fell and Illinois State led at halftime 34-17. In person, I have never seen a team score less than 40 points. I didn't think it was really possible, and if it was it was truly an embarrassment.
Illinois State is a decent team. Jackie Carmichael is a talented player and guys like Jon Ekey and John Wilkins can play some ball too. However, they are probably destined to finish near the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference and seem to be a little past their prime. I expected the Redbirds to do big things a few years back with Osiris Eldridge and Dinma Odiakosa. All of that hype never really amounted to anything for Tim Jankovich and his team. It's a real shame, because ISU deserved to go to the dance a few years back.
I was extremely impressed with Redbird Arena. It is about as intimate of a two-deck venue you will find, but is far from a midmajor gym. The game-day presentation is great. It is modernized, to a point and the media timeouts remind me of something out of a MLB game. None of this dancing Indian Chief stuff. They introduce their starters to a light show, which was very intimidating despite having a crowd well below capacity. It was also pretty neat that they had copies of the ISU student newspaper, the Daily Vidette waiting on the seats of the student section.
Monday, I wrote about how proud I was to be a Cougar. Honestly, being a Cougar sucked Thursday. I thought the sorority girls participating in a free-throw contest hit more shots than we did. After the press conference I wished our SID staff safe travels, got in the car and bolted back to Southern Illinois. No music, just heat baby.
Transitioning to NCAA Division I is the single toughest thing to do on earth, or so it seems. My freshman year of college was our final year in Division II and I graduate in less than a month. Still, the Cougars are not quite there yet. After the game, I got this tweet from @PantherU.
@AllanjLewis ouch. Just know this. After years of following the cougars, that first NCAA tourney appearance will be amazing. You will cry.
I know for a fact I will.
at ILLINOIS STATE 68, SIU EDWARDSVILLE 38 11/17/2011
SIU EDWARDSVILLE 0-2 (0-0) -- J. Jones 3-15 0-0 8; M. Yelovich 6-16 5-10 18; K. Stineman 0-5 1-2 1; K. Davis 3-5 0-0 8; D. Shaffer 0-2 0-0 0; C. Wickware 0-1 0-0 0; M. Messer 0-3 0-2 0; M. Birts 0-1 1-3 1; R. Reed 0-2 0-0 0; C. Joy 1-1 0-0 2; Z. Schneider 0-0 0-0 0; D. Boarden 0-0 0-0 0; K. Heck 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-51 7-17 38. ILLINOIS STATE 1-1 (0-0) -- A. Cousin 3-7 0-0 7; J. Ekey 4-11 2-2 12; N. Moore 3-5 2-2 11; J. Threloff 2-5 3-4 7; J. Wilkins 3-5 0-1 7; J. Carmichael 5-7 6-8 16; T. Blue 0-3 1-2 1; Z. Upshaw 0-3 2-2 2; J. Hill 1-1 3-5 5. Totals 21-47 19-26 68.
Three-point goals: SIUE 5-18 (M. Yelovich 1-3; K. Stineman 0-4; J. Jones 2-6; M. Messer 0-1; C. Wickware 0-1; K. Davis 2-3), ILST 7-22 (T. Blue 0-2; J. Ekey 2-7; Z. Upshaw 0-2; A. Cousin 1-3; J. Wilkins 1-3; N. Moore 3-5); Rebounds: SIUE 31 (K. Stineman 9), ILST 37 (J. Carmichael 13); Assists: SIUE 6 (K. Stineman 3), ILST 15 (J. Carmichael 3); Total Fouls -- SIUE 23, ILST 15; Fouled Out: SIUE-None; ILST-J. Wilkins.