Winter Break sports recap


Photo by Quinton Watt

Vanessa Shafford, sophomore guard, shoots during the three-point contest at the Midnight Madness event Oct. 14 in the Screaming Eagles Arena.

Eric Reynolds, Sports Writer

The USI athletics teams made some noise over Winter Break. Below is a summary of how the men’s and women’s basketball teams and swimming and diving competed.

Women’s basketball:

The women’s basketball team started its Winter Break with a 76-66 victory over Wright State University Dec. 17 in Dayton, Ohio. Vanessa Shafford, sophomore guard, and Meredith Raley, junior forward, led the Eagles with 20-point games. Raley also shined on the glass with a game-leading eight rebounds. 

The Screaming Eagles went to Cincinnati to face the University of Cincinnati Bearcats Dec.18. The game ended in a 99-57 Bearcats victory. The Eagles struggled from the field this game, shooting only 38.5% on 52 shots, and they especially struggled from deep, shooting only 18.2% from three-point range. 

The Eagles closed the non-conference schedule with a bounce-back home win against Brescia University 90-48 on Dec. 21 at Screaming Eagles Arena. Hannah Haithcock, senior forward, dominated the game but put up a 24-point 13 rebound double-double on 56% efficiency. Holding Brescia to 34% from the field, the Screaming Eagles played suffocating defense. The rebound battle heavily favored the Eagles at 53-30, with 21 of them coming from offensive rebounds resulting in second-chance opportunities. 

Opening Ohio Valley Conference play, the Screaming Eagles took on the Red Hawks of Southeast Missouri State, resulting in USI’s first OVC victory at 68-54. This game started the elite three-point shooting streak from Shafford, who went 4-5 in this contest. Shafford currently leads the NCAA in women’s three-point percentage at 58.3%. 

Following this brief home stretch, the Eagles went on a two-game road trip, starting with a game at Eastern Illinois University on New Years Eve. USI fell in this game 69-58. Haithcock ended up with 25 points on 50% shooting inside. Again, the turnovers would be the team’s ultimate downfall, as they had 25 turnovers compared to EIU’s 16. This discrepancy led to more fast break opportunities EIU capitalized on to give them the victory.

The Screaming Eagles finished their road trip with a 64-61 defeat at Morehead State University Jan. 5, dropping USI to 1-2 in conference play. In this game, there was a balanced offensive attack from Haithcock, Raley and Shafford accounting for 44 of the 61 points in the game. The Eagles played a close game, but it came down to the three-point shooting, where USI shot 2-10. Every other aspect of this game was competitive. 

To close out Winter Break, the Screaming Eagles defeated Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville Jan. 7 79-59 in a game headlined by Shafford with 18 points on 54% shooting, including 4-5 from beyond the arc. They finished 0.50 in conference play during the break at 2-2.

For the remaining women’s basketball schedule, click here


Men’s basketball:

The men’s team had many important games with historic wins.

Heading into finals week, the men’s team played a home game against Indiana State University Dec. 11 at Screaming Eagles Arena. This game had added importance due to the history between the universities, with USI being a former satellite campus for ISU. You can read more about the history of the universities here

During the game, the Screaming Eagles battled tough and pulled through with an 88-85 overtime victory over ISU. ISU is one of the favorites to win the Missouri Valley Conference and came into this contest with a 9-1 record. Isaiah Swope, sophomore guard, had a statement game where he came out with a career-high 28 points while hitting eight three-pointers. 

The men’s team then headed for the Indiana Classic in Fort Wayne, Indiana to face off against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Purdue Fort Wayne.

In the first game of the Indiana Classic, USI pulled off an 87-74 win over IUPUI Dec. 19, led by 30 points from Trevor Lakes, graduate forward, on a USI record-tying 10 three-pointers in the game. Another notable performance was from Jacob Polakovich, senior forward, who ended the game with 15 points and 20 rebounds. 

The second game of the Indiana Classic did not go as well for the Eagles. The Screaming Eagles fell to PFW 83-59 despite an 11-point 10 rebound double-double from Lakes. USI ended the game with 14 turnovers compared to PFW’s seven, resulting in 13 points off turnovers for the Mastodons. 

After the Indiana Classic, the Screaming Eagles entered conference play with an 86-81 statement victory over SEMO Dec. 29. Polakovic posted one of the best single-game performances in USI history, posting a 27-point 26 rebound double-double. Polakovich as of Wednesday sits at fourth overall in rebounds per game for the NCAA Division I stats with 11.5, but you can not see this on the NCAA stats page due to USI still being in the transition period. You can view the stats on the OVC webpage here

Coming off of this win, the Screaming Eagles started a three game-losing skid. The first of which was a 91-80 loss to EIU on New Years Eve in Charleston, Illinois. EIU capitalized on USI’s mistakes, with 27 points off 17 total USI turnovers. There were also lapses in USI’s defense as they allowed EIU to shoot an unprecedented 60% from the field and 50% from three. 

The defensive lapses would continue into the next game as the Screaming Eagles fell to Morehead State 84-80 Jan. 5 in Morehead, Kentucky despite Swopes’ 25-point performance. Morehead State shot 53.1% from the field and 57.1% from three. In addition to poor defensive performance, USI fouled 23 times, resulting in 31 free-throw opportunities, which Morehead State connected on 77.4%. 

The team’s losing streak continued into the last game of Winter Break. The Eagles lost to SIUE 69-62 Jan. 7 in the Screaming Eagles Arena in a much better defensive performance. However, the three-point shot was not falling, as USI shot 16.67% from three in the second half compared to 37.5% in the first half. 

For the remaining men’s basketball schedule, click here.

Swimming and diving:

The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams had one meet at Cleveland State University Jan. 6, where the men lost 204-82, and the women lost 188.5-91.5. 

For individual men’s statistics from the meet, click here. For individual women’s statistics, click here.