Nov. 11, 2009
EDWARDSVILLE, ILL. - Whether it's the season opener or the first home game of the season, this week is certainly looking to be very big for the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville men's basketball program.
SIUE opens the season officially Friday at Illinois with a 7 p.m. tip-off against one of the Big Ten's best basketball programs. On Sunday, SIUE returns to the Vadalabene Center to entertain Illinois State at 2 p.m., one of the Missouri Valley Conference's finest.
"It's a very challenging but opportunistic week for us," said SIUE Coach Lennox Forrester.
The Cougars, in year two of their transition to NCAA Division I status, have not shied away from the big game. This is the first season with a full NCAA Division I schedule, and the Cougars are starting with a pair of teams which advanced to the postseason last season.
Illinois advanced to the NCAA Tournament while Illinois State earned a spot in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).
Forrester said the Cougars are playing a pair of programs that are well coached and play in great conferences. SIUE will need to make some adjustments before Friday's game after taking an overtime loss to Illinois College in exhibition play.
"We need to make some adjustments both offensively and defensively," said Forrester.
The third-year head coach said the Cougars made some defensive plays but then were unable to score points off opponent miscues.
"We just didn't finish the play," Forrester said.
Senior point guard Aamir McCleary (Philadelphia, Pa.) averaged 15.5 points and 7.5 assists per game in two exhibition contests.
Dobrivoje Mavrak (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) grabbed 15 rebounds for the Cougars Saturday. It was SIUE's biggest rebounding feat since the 2006-2007 season.
The Cougars also return sophomore Mark Yelovich (Mt. Zion) who became only the third freshman in school history to lead the team in scoring. Yelovich averaged 13.7 points per game.