Game #9-005: SIU Edwardsville at Missouri TigersNovember 10, 2012 5:00 pm
Seven months ago, Missouri got Norfolked
Southern Illinois-Edwardsville only wishes it could one day have that chance.
Saturday was a historic day, although not a soul among the 10,000 strong at Mizzou Arena had any idea why. For the first time in school history, the Cougars played a Division I basketball game as a post-season eligible program.
Not that any Missouri fan would understand the significance of that. Simply qualifying for the NCAA Tournament is not a luxury at a place like MU. That might even get a coach fired if he doesn't advance far enough each season. In fact, when the Tigers missed the Big Dance each year from 2004 to 2008, we were ready to revolt in the state of Missouri. The program was considered "dead," "in the tank," and "irrelevant." Now compare that to SIU-Edwardsville, which joined Division I as a transitional member in 2008-09 and has spent the past four seasons without even the possibility of making the NCAA Tournament.
The two programs live in different worlds, and yet they collided on Saturday. As a videographer on the baseline, I specifically chose to sit on the SIUE side in the first half so I could observe coach Lennox Forrester and his bench. I have a soft spot in my hearts for guys like Forrester-- Valley guys, I mean. He graduated from Evansville long before I began watching basketball, but he coached under Jim Les at Bradley for five seasons. Les is, without a doubt, my all-time favorite college basketball coach. Every season at Arch Madness, I sat behind him and watched him work, mesmerized by his sheer passion for the game of basketball. He was a tyrant, but the kind of tyrant you knew cared about you. He could tell Sam Maniscalco on the bench he was Satan himself, but you knew he'd go to war for that kid any day of the week. That's why I love Jim Les, and I assume Lennox Forrester is much of the same mold. He was a part of the Bradley staff when the Braves upset Kansas. Anybody who beats Kansas and comes from the Missouri Valley is a friend of mine.
You didn't get the sense that the bench thought this day was necessarily historic, but there was a noticeable vibe. For about 18 minutes, the Cougars belonged. They made four threes in the first 12 minutes of the game, held their own on the boards, dove for loose balls and frustrated a Missouri team attempting to break in an entirely new team of transfers and newcomers.
Then Laurence Bowers heated up and Missouri ran away with the game. So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut would say. There's always that breaking point in a game like this between a top-25 team and a team like Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. This is a team that won 10 games a year ago and will struggle to compete in the Ohio Valley Conference, which is as strong as it's been in years with Murray State, Belmont and Tennessee State at the top of the helm. I will see SIUE play on its home floor several times this season, but I am not expecting a miracle. These sorts of projects take time. When Rick Byrd and Belmont joined Division I in 1996, it took the Bruins 10 seasons to finally make the NCAAs.
Perhaps a decade from now, we'll talk about Lennox Forrester and the mighty Cougars. We'll talk about the job he's done at a difficult venue, how he's rebuilt a program from a Division I transitional team to OVC powerhouse and how it's a blueprint for every program looking to make the step up to Division I. Maybe that process has already begun. Four years ago, this same SIUE program came to Mizzou Arena and lost by about 150 points. This year, it was a six-point game at halftime.
You can dream, right? That's all that matters, really. The fact that from now until forever, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville will always be able to dream.at MISSOURI 83, SIU EDWARDSVILLE 69
SIU EDWARDSVILLE 0-1 (0-0) -- T. Johnson 3-6 2-3 9; M. Wiltz 4-13 0-0 11; J. Jones 6-14 0-3 17; D. Shaffer 2-9 1-2 5; K. Davis 5-14 0-0 11; M. Messer 2-4 8-8 13; M. Yelovich 0-5 0-0 0; R. Reed 1-3 0-0 2; R. Lester 0-0 0-0 0; C. Joy 0-0 1-2 1; Z. Schneider 0-0 0-0 0; M. Birts 0-1 0-0 0; K. Heck 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-69 12-18 69.
MISSOURI 1-0 (0-0) -- P. Pressey 7-12 3-4 19; N. Webster-Chan 4-7 0-0 11; A. Oriakhi 4-9 0-3 8; K. Bell 3-8 2-2 8; L. Bowers 9-14 2-3 20; E. Ross 2-10 3-4 7; T. Criswell 1-5 1-2 3; S. Jankovic 2-2 1-1 7; R. Rosburg 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 32-68 12-19 83.
Three-point goals: SIUE 11-26 (M. Yelovich 0-2; T. Johnson 1-4; J. Jones 5-8; M. Messer 1-1; R. Reed 0-1; K. Davis 1-3; M. Wiltz 3-7), MIZZ 7-16 (K. Bell 0-3; E. Ross 0-4; P. Pressey 2-2; N. Webster-Chan 3-5; S. Jankovic 2-2); Rebounds: SIUE 31 (D. Shaffer 7), MIZZ 48 (A. Oriakhi 15); Assists: SIUE 11 (M. Wiltz 4), MIZZ 20 (P. Pressey 9); Total Fouls -- SIUE 19, MIZZ 17; Fouled Out: SIUE-None; MIZZ-S. Jankovic.