This was a game I had been looking forward to for a while: The C vs The E, Little Sister vs Big Brother, the matchup to show which SIU reigned as the dominant basketball force in the southern tier of the Land of Lincoln.
As we've discussed before, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville started as a satellite campus of the main school in Carbondale in the 1950s. The two schools, separated by roughly 90 miles of Illinois farmland, had only played each other three times, a series from 1985 to 1987, with the Salukis from Carbondale winning all three. With the Cougars' jump to Division I, the rivalry has been renewed with a four-year series alternating between SIU Arena and the Vadalabene Center.
As I drove toward Carbondale, I found the Saluki pregame show on the radio, and the announcers were not too fond of this rivalry's renewal. Their basic assertion was a SIUC loss would be the most embarrassing one of the season, possibly in several seasons. The Salukis suffered a Black-Line upset in their first game of this season, a 64-63 loss to Division II's Ohio Dominican, but most believed a loss to Edwardsville would be much worse.
Of course, what went unsaid by the Saluki-centric announcers was a Saluki loss would also mean what would easily be considered the biggest win in SIUE's young Division I life.
I met up with my friend Drew, the SIUC alumnus, and he echoed the sentiment of the announcers as we headed to Carbondale for our second Saluki game together this year, the first being the dismal loss to St. Louis. However, Drew remained confident in the Salukis' ability to win, enough so to place a small wager on the game.
As we walked up to the SIU Arena ticket window, we were fortunate enough to find a older man, rather he found us, who was giving away a ticket to the game. I gladly took the giveaway, and Drew purchased his own. Although the seats were five sections apart, the arena was empty enough again to allow us to sit together.
From the tip, it looked like this game would be evenly matched. SIUE's Derian Shaffer made a 10-footer to give SIUE the very early 2-0 lead, to which several people in our section joked, "Take a photo of that, SIUE winning over SIU." The Cougars actually held the lead three times in the first four minutes of the game, at 4-2, and again at 6-5, before the Salukis finally decided they'd had enough of toying around. Two layups by Saluki big man Mamadou Seck and another pair of layups for freshman Dantiel Daniels sparked an 11-0 Carbondale run, and showed the Salukis would dominate the paint. SIUE's attempt to run a 2-3 zone to slow the Saluki interior attack proved totally ineffective, as 22 of the Salukis' 43 first-half points came from the paint, and 11 more from the free-throw line after drawing 14 SIUE fouls. On the offensive end, the Cougars shot a respectable 36 percent, but all but three of the missed shots found their way into Saluki hands. Once again, SIUE looked like they were just a step behind, and Big Brother took a comfortable 43-28 lead into halftime.
After a halftime conversation between me and Drew on the underrated status of popcorn as a snack treat with Drew's argument being "It lacks the flair of a nacho," the second half started with the Salukis slowly extending their lead. In this half, it was Diamond Taylor from three-point range and Davante Drinkard operating in the lane who led the Saluki charge. For the first time Drew could remember in a while, SIU actually showed how deep a team they can be, with five players (Seck, Drinkard, Taylor, Daniels and T.J. Lindsey) scoring in double digits. The SIU Arena crowd, lacking in enthusiasm despite the result, watched the Salukis methodically put away a 80-57 win, the biggest margin of victory in the series. Little Sister would not get the win tonight.
But, the Cougars still have three more chances to improve and challenge their Carbondale cousins. Next year's matchup will be on SIUE's home court, and the last time they played at the Vadalabene Center, back in January 1987, the Salukis barely escaped with an 84-83 overtime win. The hope among Cougar faithful is at some point, especially on their home court, they will finally come out as the team on top in the bottom part of Illinois.
at SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 80, SIU EDWARDSVILLE 57 12/19/2011
SIU EDWARDSVILLE 2-7 (0-0) -- K. Davis 6-15 6-8 21; C. Wickware 1-5 4-4 7; J. Jones 4-9 3-4 11; R. Reed 1-3 0-2 2; C. Joy 1-3 2-3 4; D. Shaffer 3-8 1-6 7; M. Yelovich 1-4 1-2 3; Z. Schneider 0-0 2-2 2; M. Birts 0-0 0-0 0; D. Boarden 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-47 19-31 57. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 3-5 (0-0) -- D. Taylor 5-15 1-2 14; K. Goff 0-1 3-4 3; T. Setty 3-4 0-1 6; D. Daniels 4-7 4-4 12; T. Lindsay 4-5 3-4 13; K. Brown-Surles 0-4 2-2 2; M. Seck 5-7 0-0 10; J. Swan 0-4 2-2 2; D. Drinkard 5-8 0-1 10; J. Early 3-4 0-0 6; A. Bryer 1-1 0-0 2; H. Whitt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-60 15-20 80.
Three-point goals: SIUE 4-11 (J. Jones 0-1; R. Reed 0-1; C. Wickware 1-3; K. Davis 3-6), SIU 5-17 (K. Brown-Surles 0-4; D. Taylor 3-8; T. Lindsay 2-3; J. Swan 0-2); Rebounds: SIUE 27 (J. Jones 11), SIU 35 (D. Daniels 7); Assists: SIUE 5 (C. Wickware 2), SIU 16 (D. Taylor 4); Total Fouls -- SIUE 20, SIU 24; Fouled Out: SIUE-None; SIU-D. Drinkard.