Game #9-087: Southern Illinois at SIU Edwardsville CougarsNovember 20, 2012 8:00 pm
I have many faults. I eat popcorn at an extraordinarily alarming rate, I easily forget things, and I haven't been inside a library in at least 18 months. I procrastinate. I have two speeding tickets
to my name. I have eight times as many parking tickets. Most are unpaid and will probably lead to a short prison sentence in the near future. I am imperfect in many, many ways, and yet there's one thing I have never had a problem with.
There's just very little anybody can do to bother me. Life's too short to be angry all the time or lash out at people for no reason. I alluded to this in my last Mid-Majority
entry, when I prided myself in rarely having the urge to punch people in the face. I may amass traffic violations faster than you can say Farokhmanesh
, but you won't hardly ever see me display a temper.
So maybe there was just something in the air in Edwardsville, Illinois on November 20th. That might explain why Mr. Mild-Mannered briefly transformed into a raving lunatic.
This might have been the most important game in the history of Southern Illinois-Edwardsville basketball. For the first time in more than two decades, the Cougars welcomed their sister school, Southern Illinois-Carbondale, to the Vadalabene Center. The Salukis, once a proud Missouri Valley program and one of the top defensive squads in all of college basketball during the middle part of the last decade, lost 23 games last year and haven't finished with a winning
record in five seasons. Still, that's irrelevant to SIUE. The Cougars are post-season eligible for the first time as a Division I program after a four-year transitional period, and a home victory against the Salukis would prove to the world that they belong at this level of college basketball.
After convincing my 18-year-old younger brother to drive 45 minutes to Edwardsville with me, I secured two $15 tickets online on the day of the game. I chalked up six extra dollars to sit in "reserved" seating, which somehow placed me two rows behind Southern Illinois-Carbondale's bench. This was perfectly fine with me. Surrounding myself with SIUC administrators, boosters and players' families, I felt important for two hours, which is approximately two hours longer than I've ever felt important for. Beside the ego-boost, I was elated to get an up-close look at Barry Hinson, SIUC's first-year head coach. Hinson, making his triumphant return to the Valley after Missouri State fired him a few years ago, is a character on the sidelines. That's putting it lightly.
There may not be an angrier man in college basketball. Hinson isn't very physically imposing. He's not very tall, he wears glasses and he looks more like a librarian than a coach. But once that whistle blows and the game tips off, this guy turns into a fireball. Still in the early rebuilding stages of his program, he stomps his feet, runs along the sideline like a wild man and screams and yells whenever he pleases.
At one point early in the second half, his Salukis have blown their double-digit lead and now find themselves in a heated battle with SIUE. Lennox Forrester's team has cranked up its full-court pressure, and that confuses a Carbondale player on this particular possession. Trying to break the press, he heaves the basketball with one hand down the sideline, aiming for one of his teammates streaking toward the basket at the other end of the floor. They call this the Home Run Play in college basketball, and it's supposed to expose the opponent's full-court pressure and break it for an easy basket.
It didn't quite work as planned. The ball did not land in the hands of a Saluki player. It sailed to the right, far beyond the court, into the hands of another Saluki.
Not a player, though. It landed in the hands of Barry Hinson.
Most coaches would probably shake their head and find the nearest referee. Some might laugh. Some might smile. But Barry Hinson isn't most coaches.
When he caught the ball, he seemed to lose his damn mind. In one movement, he caught the ball, then fired it as far as he could and with as much force as possible toward the other end of the floor, conveniently toward one of the officials. Hinson then turned around, looked at his assistants, and screamed -- so loud that the whole arena broke into laughter -- "WHAT IN THE HELL IS HE DOING!"
We laughed at his anger. We weren't laughing a few minutes later.
My younger brother told me to remember the time: "6:16. We have to remember that so we can watch it on the DVR when we get home."
With six minutes and 16 seconds left, Barry Hinson looked like Mr. Rogers compared to what happened in Edwardsville. With six minutes and 16 seconds left, a Southern Illinois-Edwardsville player missed a shot. The ball rolled on the floor and caused a pile-up right near the SIUE bench, a common occurrence in a heated college basketball game.
What happened next
wasn't very common. In fact, I don't think I'll ever see it again as long as I live. SIUE's Jerome Jones thought SIUC's Antonio Bryer hit him. Jones put him in a headlock. Bodies piled on each other. Most of SIUE's bench cleared. Within an instant, a heated game turned into a disaster. From my spot on the other end of the arena, I couldn't tell if anybody was throwing punches, but I know a fight when I see one. That's why I immediately grabbed my phone and took this picture:
The officials seemed to have the same problem I did. They had no idea what in the world had just happened. After separating the players, they went to the video monitor. For 16 minutes. Over and over, they looked at the replay of the fight to determine who started it, who was responsible and who needed to be ejected.
After mulling it over, the PA announcer then read the verdict aloud. Six SIUE players ejected: Jerome Jones, Ray Lester, Mark Yelovich, Charles Joy, Zeke Schneider and Kyle Heck. For SIUC, Antonio Bryer.
There may have been seven combined ejections, but the players seemed to escape without injury and without leaving a Law and Order-style crime scene of blood and guts on the floor. The officials restored order, and the Salukis marched to an easy victory. Anger issues aside, they left Edwardsville without incident.
I wish I could have done that.
I wrote a Mid-Majority post
on the opening night of college basketball somewhat similar to this article you're reading right now. As us wannabe scribes often do, I tied basketball and life together in a nice little essay, separating into sections for your convenience. You may recall that I wrote about how angry I was in the car on the way home from the game, since I was lost in Omaha and couldn't find my way out of Nebraska.
This happened again, except I was in Edwardsville, not Omaha. I was barely a half-hour from my own house, not five hours away, and yet I still aged approximately 40 years trying to find my way to the highway. It began when my younger brother and I encountered a one-way sign, which forced us to take a different road on the SIUE campus. The campus is long and winding. It's beautiful, but it's really hard to navigate. All the buildings look the same: even the basketball arena and the library seemed interchangeable. So when I got to a one-way street and had to take another road -- a different one than I came in -- I started to get a little nervous.
I saw a car in front of me eventually turn left. "Maybe he's lost too," my brother said. That seemed like a nice theory, so I followed him. It took me to a main street in Edwardsville, so the highway couldn't be too far away, right?
Ten minutes later, there was no highway. I was frustrated, but I decided to turn back into campus and retrace my steps, all the way from the parking lot next to the arena. At this point, the Salukis' team bus already looked like it was about to leave. When I encountered the one-way street again, I turned right and kept going. That led me to nowhere.
It's now been at least 20 minutes, and I've driven on the same long roads over and over and over again, almost as though I were driving into a black hole. I'm not frustrated anymore. I'm just angry at this point. I'm as angry as Barry Hinson after a missed layup, as angry as Jerome Jones after getting hit in the face. I hate being lost, and knowing that I would probably be home by now if I had just used MapQuest on my freaking Android phone, I got angrier and angrier as the seconds passed. Knowing I would probably throw him out of the car if he said a word, my brother stayed silent, probably as angry as I was but certainly not daring enough to say anything about it for fear of repercussions.
I started speeding up and down these winding roads, probably 40 miles over the speed limit. I felt like I was trapped in a cage. If I could heave a ball cross-court and scream "WHAT THE HELL IS HE DOING!" I would have done it, had that made any sense in this scenario. Instead, when I reached a dead-end parking lot for the eighth time in 30 minutes, I slammed on the brakes, honked my horn for five seconds and started yelling at my brother for absolutely no reason.
I turned around and kept driving straight on a road that turned into some rural highway. Uh oh. I think I was on my way to Indianapolis accidentally. It was time to pull out my phone and go to MapQuest.
I found the nearest road sign and entered it into MapQuest. Turns out, if I kept driving straight for about a mile, I'd run right into I-270, which would take me home.
Relieved that I had finally found my way out of Edwardsville, I cruised home without traffic from there. My skirmish with SIUE's campus had ended.
No ejections, no balls thrown across the court, no punches thrown. Just a lesson in why no matter how mild-mannered I claim to be, and no matter how civilized the game of basketball appears from the outside, all it takes is one headlock or one wrong turn to transform Mr. Rogers to Barry Hinson.