Reynolds Report: Reactions return


Photo by Quinton Watt

Rick Stein, head coach of the women’s basketball team, talks to his players during a timeout against Oakland City University Nov. 7 at the Screaming Eagles Arena.

Eric Reynolds, Sports Writer

I wrote an article Nov. 10 about my overreactions to the first men’s and women’s basketball games of the season. Let’s take a look back at these games to see if both teams are still playing as they did or if they have adjusted to better fit their teams.

Men’s Basketball:

In the original article, I predicted that the men’s team would be in a great position to compete for the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season championship. As of Jan. 25, USI is tied for first in the conference at 5-3.

The men have had many impressive games, but one of the most impressive was held Jan. 21 at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. The Screaming Eagles won 82-72 over the 14-7 Wildcats. SIUE is one of the teams tied for first, making this game much more stunning.

USI lived and died by the three in the game against Missouri University Nov. 7, shooting 1-13 from three in the first half compared to 14-17 in the second. The overreaction from this performance was that the men would have issues with streaky shooting, and the team would lose some games due to this.

Jacob Polokovich, senior forward, hangs out with the men's basketball team during Media Day Oct. 4 in the Screaming Eagles Arena.
Jacob Polokovich, senior forward, hangs out with the men’s basketball team during Media Day Oct. 4 2022 in the Screaming Eagles Arena. (Photo by Quinton Watt)

The streaky shooting has proven to be a factor for the team. Comparing the two games they have played against SIUE, a loss at home on Jan. 7 and a win away Saturday, USI shot 28.6% from three compared to 40% in the win.

When the outside shot is falling for the men’s team, they can spread the floor more and open up the post for senior forward Jacob Polakovich. Trevor Lakes, graduate forward, has been one of the most important players in this aspect due to him shooting 44.7% from beyond the arc this season. According to ShotQuality on Twitter, Lakes also leads the nation in “deep three-point” percentage at 40.2% on 3.1 attempts per game. The deep three-point range is 27 feet from the basket or 6 feet 3 inches behind the three-point line.

The final overreaction from the beginning of the season was that Jelani Simmons, senior guard, could make the All-OVC team this season. While this is still possible, it’s much more likely that Polakovich or Isaiah Swope, sophomore guard, will be the USI representatives.

Polakovich has not only been the team’s leading rebounder this season but also fourth in all of NCAA Division I. Along with his rebounding, he is scoring 11.9 points per game on an incredibly efficient 55.8%. Polakovich is one of the main reasons the Screaming Eagles are tied for first in the conference.

Swope will also receive All-OVC considerations, as he is currently the teams leading scorer at 14.1 points per game while also shooting 46.3% and 48.8% from three. Swope is also the team’s assist leader at 3.5 assists per game.

Women’s Basketball:

The women’s team played a very different opening game compared to the men’s in their game against Oakland City University Nov. 7. They opened up with an 87-39 win over. The women currently sit at a record of 9-10 and 3-5 in conference play.

The game against OCU was led by Hannah Haithcock, senior forward, with a 16-point performance. Haithcock continues to be the team’s leading scorer since this game, with 14.7 points per game in only 26.7 average minutes played.

Hannah Haithcock, senior forward, shoots with her left hand for two points against Oakland City University Nov. 7 in the Screaming Eagles Arena.
Hannah Haithcock, senior forward, shoots with her left hand for two points against Oakland City University Nov. 7 2022 in the Screaming Eagles Arena. (Photo by Quinton Watt)

The first overreaction from the women’s game was that the duo of Ashlynn Brown, graduate forward, and Haithcock would be formidable enough to keep opposing teams out of the paint. While this is true to an extent, the opposing teams are still testing the duo, which has resulted in a high number of personal fouls being committed by the Screaming Eagles. Brown has 57 fouls this season, second only to fellow post player Meredith Raley, junior forward, who has 62.

Personal fouls are an issue for the team on both ends of the court. Offensive fouls have resulted in many turnovers for the team. Turnovers remain their biggest issue as they have amassed 409 in only 19 games, which comes out to 21.5 turnovers per game.

The large number of turnovers was one of the main points of concern from the first game for the Screaming Eagles. In the victory over OCU, the Eagles had 30 total turnovers. Turnovers lead to many fast break attempts for the opposing teams, which have been game-changing for the team.

The final overreaction from the game against OCU discussed Raley fighting for a spot in the starting lineup. This overreaction is now thought of as an underreaction because Raley was inserted into the starting lineup only a few games into the season and has yet to relinquish it, starting 14 of the 19 games this season. Raley is currently averaging 13.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, making her a key piece of this team.

The men’s and women’s teams continue their seasons Jan. 26 against Eastern Illinois University in home games. Check out the rest of the men’s schedule here and the women’s schedule here.