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Get To Know A Marquette Basketball Opponent: Southern Illinois Edwardsville Cougars

Who would win in a fight: Golden Eagle or Cougar?

Puma leaping from rock North America.
That’s a nice looking cat.
Photo by: Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Name: Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Wait, no hyphen? Nope.

Location: Edwardsville, Illinois, duh

You’re being mean: Yeah, probably. Ostensibly, Edwardsville is a suburb of Saint Louis, even though it’s in a different state and the campus is located about 20 miles away from the Gateway Arch. If you look at Google Maps, though, you can draw a (mostly) straight line from Saint Louis proper to Edwardsville without leaving the gray urban area coloration.

Isn’t there a regular SIU? Yes, in Carbondale, which is about a two hour drive southeast from Edwardsville. So, yes, SIU is actually much further S than SIUE. The Carbondale school was founded in 1869, while the Edwardsville school was opened nearly 90 years later as an extension of the Carbondale campus.

Founded: 1957

Enrollment: A bit over 12,000 with a little less than 10,000 undergraduates, which means SIUE is pretty similar in size to Marquette.

Demographics: Amazingly, even though SIUE is so close to Missouri, only 11% of their students are from somewhere other than Illinois. I’m going to presume this has something to do with Illinois and Missouri not having a tuition exchange program of some sort and that means Missouri residents have to pay out-of-state prices even though they’re closer to the school than the majority of the residents of the state of Illinois.

Nickname: Cougars

Why “Cougars”? Well, the school was founded by a bunch of 40-something year old single women, so..... [presses finger to ear] I’m being told that is not true. Apparently the cougar was chosen as the school mascot in 1966, which was a year before they started sponsoring athletic teams. From 1968 through 1987, SIUE actually had a live cougar mascot, with two different cougars serving in the role. You can read the whole story of Chimega and Kyra on this page from SIUE’s website. WARNING: People are stupid.

Notable Alumni: Ken Flach & Robert Seguso, who won Wimbledon, US Open, and Olympic double tennis titles together; Ed Hightower, former college basketball referee; Fernando Aguirre, former president of Chiquita; Gail Lininger, co-founder of RE/MAX; Thelma Mothershed-Wair, member of the Little Rock Nine; Los Angeles Times sportswriter Bill Plaschke; Pulitzer Prize winner Paige St. John; Gilbert “Gib” Singleton, a sculptor who fashioned the staffs (known as crosiers) carried by each of the last two popes as well as Pope Francis; and Jeff Tweedy, lead singer of Wilco.

Last Season: 9-17, with a record of 7-12 in Ohio Valley Conference play as well as a win over something called “St. Louis Pharmacy.”

Final 2020-21 Ranking: #323

Final 2020-21 T-Rank Ranking: #323

Preseason 2021-22 Ranking: #314

Preseason 2021-22 T-Rank Ranking: #314

Returning Stats Leaders

Points: Shamar Wright, 9.0 ppg
Rebounds: Shamar Wright, 4.6 rpg
Assists: Courtney Carter, 3.7 apg

Bigs? Michael Matas qualifies as Tall Guy at 6’8” and 200 pounds, and he was a part-time guy last season. DeeJuan Pruitt (6’8”, 230 lbs) is making his SUIE debut in this game after going for 13.5 points and a team high 7.3 rebounds per game at Butler Community College in Kansas last year.

The Cougars have two notably big gents on the roster in Jonathan Kurtas and Elochukwu Eze. Kurtas (6’10”, 235 lbs) is a freshman from North Carolina who averaged a double-double as a senior in high school. Eze (6’10”, 240 lbs.) appeared in nine games last season as a freshman for a total of 29 minutes.

Shooters? Noted Milwaukee Guy Desmond Polk is SUIE’s leading returning three-point shooter. He connected on 32% of his 56 attempts last season while playing in all 26 games. 32% is, of course, below the 33% efficiency cutoff, so that’s not good news for the Cougars but is decently good news for Marquette. Shamar Wright likes to shoot threes, averaging over three attempts a game last season, but he’s only connecting at a 28% clip in his two years of college action.

Head Coach: Marquette grad Brian Barone, in his third season at SIUE and overall with a record of 17-40.

What To Watch For: Well, let’s take this from two angles. First, let’s talk about SUIE’s lone exhibition game, which was a 62-61 loss to Division 2 Quincy. Ray’Sean Taylor led the Cougars with 22 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, a block, and four steals in 35 minutes, so he’s pretty good all over the court. The only other double-digit scorer for Brian Barone’s squad was Carlos Curtis, who got 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting.... but he missed all three of his long range attempts in the process. Missing threes was a theme for SUIE who blew a nine point lead with 19 minutes left somewhat thanks to the fact that they missed all five of their long range attempts in the second half on their way to making just 19% for the game. This appears to be a situation where Barone took the exhibition game seriously (they were losing by seven with 6:56 to go) and only really went seven deep on his bench, with guys #8 and #9 (Kurtas and Polk, as it happens) only getting five minutes of action each.

On one hand, don’t read too much into exhibition games. On the other hand, SUIE blew a nine point lead, fell behind by seven, managed to retake the lead with 1:39 to go and then lost.

The other angle is what the Cougars have looked like in Barone’s two seasons in charge so far. The answer is “not particularly great.” They haven’t done anything on either end that stands out as a real trend from year to year, or at least a trend that qualifies as “this is something that MU has to watch out for.” I can say that they don’t like shooting threes, ranking below #240 in the country per KenPom in both of Barone’s seasons in terms of three-point attempt rate. That’s not really something that MU has to worry about because a glance at last year’s stat sheet should tell you that there isn’t really anyone to worry about as a shooter to threaten the Golden Eagles anyway.

They were an incredible shot blocking team last season, and a lot of that is due to Lamar Wright (6’7”, 185 lbs.) ranking #27 in the country in block rate. He averaged just under two swats per game and did that while only playing 22 minutes a night.

All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 1-0. The only previous meeting came back on December 21, 2016, and the Golden Eagles prevailed 89-56. It looks like a dominant victory, but SUIE was leading 17-16 with about 9:30 to go in the first half. A 16-2 first half run after that point along with 13-2 and 15-2 runs in the second half put that one out of reach. Five Golden Eagles scored in double digits while the Cougars held Markus Howard to just two points in 19 minutes off the bench.