A team that is used to being the hunters is now being hunted. But the UIS men’s basketball team is proving that they are ready for the challenge of being the best in the conference.
After receiving word last week that they were currently ranked no. 21 in the NAIA national poll, the Stars didn’t let the hype go to their heads against overmatched Williams Baptist and made a bold statement on the road in winning against the Cougars of Columbia 68-63 last Saturday night.
“We go into each game with a goal,” said sophomore guard Aaron Anderson. “Against Columbia, we had never won at their place and we accomplished that so that helps us take it one game at a time.”
The Stars first played host to one of the hunting teams that wanted to make a name for themselves in Williams Baptist. While the Stars led for most of the game, the Eagles hung around and even tied the game up in the second half. But, the Stars could not be stopped offensively and were able to overcome a less than stellar defensive performance and win 102-85.
Curtis Collins led the way with 25 points. Kelvin Johnson added 19 and Aaron Leonard chipped in with 16.
The balance of power had the potential to shift in the Prairie Stars favor if they were to be victorious against the Cougars of Columbia due to Missouri Baptist losing to McKendree. Thus, a win would put them two wins ahead of everyone in the American Midwest Conference. They had their work cut for them on the road in front of a hostile crowd in the Southwell Complex. Trailing 33-30 at the half, the Stars started to clamp down defensively and cause 16 turnovers, a trademark of this team’s defensive philosophy. The offense played solid and kept the control of the game to their liking.
In the game, Collins led the way again with 20 points and eight rebounds. Johnson had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists. Antonio Puckett had 16 points to help the cause.
The wins put the Stars at 13-8 overall and 5-0 in the AMC. The team will host two conference games this week starting with a match-up against Harris Stowe tomorrow with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. On Saturday, they will play host to bitter rival McKendree. Tip off for that game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Women's team tries hard but comes up short
Mike Fitzpatrick - Sports Reporter
This past week the women’s basketball team hosted two home games on both Tuesday and Saturday. Fresh off of three consecutive losses to Bethel College, Hannibal-LaGrange and Williams Woods University, the team looked to try and hoped their luck would change and they could put some wins together.
Tuesday night the Stars took on Missouri Baptist University in the American Midwest Conference match-up. Going into the game, the Stars had a 2-2 AMC record and Missouri Baptist was 3-1. The first half of play showed a lot of promise for some good competition as the teams 41.4 and 22.2 percent respectively from the field.
However, the second half was quite the opposite as Missouri Baptist caught a bad case of the cold shooting that the Stars were experiencing and shot 35.5 percent. Despite the Stars’ better shooting in the second half, it wasn’t enough to overcome the slow start in the first half as they ended up losing 61-41.
Prior to the loss the team actually was given an opportunity to win the game as at one point they were within 10 points but unfortunately didn’t hit some key shots that could have overturned the result of the game. Once again, junior Dominique Moses posted double-double numbers in what has been her sixth of the season. She ended the game with 11 points and 16 rebounds followed by fellow teammate, junior Jasmin Lassere, who contributed 10 points.
Despite the loss on Tuesday, spirits were still high as the team stayed home to take on the McKendree Bearcats. Going into the game the Bearcats were 4-1 in AMC play and the Stars desperately needed a win for the conference standings.
The beginning of the game showed much excitement from both teams as the momentum was swinging back and forth, and a lot of good opportunities were taken. However, at the end of the half the Stars once again saw that their poor shooting was the cause for being down as they shot 27.6 percent compared to the Bearcats’ 46.2.
Determined to shoot better in the second half the Stars came out with the guns blazing shooting 40 pecent this time from the field and going back and forth points wise with McKendree.
Although they were shooting better, the Stars once again failed to learn that the play early on in the game typically decides how it will end as they were unable to come back from the big hole they dug themselves into in the first half. The game ended with McKendree on top 66-51. The team was led by Moses with 14 points followed by sophomore Keyria Rodgers’s 10 points. The loss now puts the Stars at 2-3 in conference and 5-16 for the season.
The Stars play Saturday at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge, Ark.
Prarie Stars nationally ranked
Four years ago, the University of Illinois at Springfield took a chance on a local sports icon to help build a program to a national level.
Today, the gamble paid off as for the first time in its four year history, the University of Illinois at Springfield men’s basketball team is ranked. The Prairie Stars received 97 votes to catapult them into the 21st spot in today’s National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division I National Top 25 Poll.
“It is quite an honor for our student-athletes,” said Head Coach Kevin Gamble. “The team has worked very hard and they deserve it. As coaches, we are pleased and happy for their success.”
Four years ago, that success was a far-off goal as Gamble was introduced as the new UIS men’s basketball coach.
“I think we’ll be competitive. We’re going to struggle our first few years…,” said Gamble at his inaugural press conference. “But you know me. I think it is a challenge that I’m ready for.”
The Prairie Stars opened the first season of competition in the fall of 2002, compiling a 13-20 overall record, and upsetting a few nationally ranked teams along the way.
In 2003, UIS joined the American Midwest Conference and the Prairie Stars were 12-16 overall and 5-7 in conference play.
Last year, the Prairie Stars did indeed struggle on the court, finishing with an 8-22 overall record and a 4-8 in the conference.
This year the Prairie Stars men’s basketball team has ventured into uncharted territory. They are the only undefeated team in the American Midwest Conference (3-0). One of those wins was in Lebanon, Illinois, against the Bearcats of McKendree College, marking the first time the Prairie Stars have come home with a victory from their court. Overall, the Prairie Stars are 11-8 on the season, the first time they have been over the .500 mark at this point of the year.
“As long as we continue to play our style of basketball at the level I know we can play at,” said Gamble, “we will continue to enjoy this kind of success. Our team goal is to win the conference and have a chance to play in the national tournament.” (Some information provided by Hal Pilger and The State Journal-Register,dated Thursday, March 28, 2002)
Academic Honor Roll announced
By Press Release
Dr. Rodger Jehlicka has announced the first installment of the Director of Athletics Academic Honor Roll and 48 Prairie Stars student-athletes have qualified for the honor. In order to be named to the Athletic Director Academic Honor Roll, student-athletes must have earned a 3.0 or higher grade-point-average (GPA) during the semester.
“I am very impressed that more than 50% of the 90 student-athletes at UIS made the honor role,” said Jehlicka. “One of my priorities is the academic success of the athletes and increasing the number of athletes on the honor roll each year.”
The following student-athletes have been named to the 2005 Fall Director of Athletics Academic Honor Roll: Name (Sport) Hometown
Ali Janezic (Volleyball) Lake Barrington, IL
Tori McColez (Volleyball) Quincy, IL
Danielle Simler (Volleyball) Forreston, IL
Lauren Sanders (Volleyball) Effingham, IL
Christine Wenthe (Volleyball) Effingham, IL
Audra Roach (Volleyball) Charleston, IL
Ashley Wade (Volleyball) Huffman, TX
Danielle Crossen (Volleyball) Caseyville, IL
Megan Leonard (Volleyball) Effingham, IL
Maria Ray (Volleyball) Springfield, IL
Korey Baker (Soccer) Springfield, IL
Michael Hutchinson (Soccer) Rochester, IL
Kenneth Jackson (Soccer) Granite City, IL
Curt Miller (Soccer) Rochester, IL
John Petri (Soccer) Granite City, IL
Drew Rynders (Soccer) Springfield, IL
Chance Walker (Soccer) El Paso, IL
Alexander Cruz (Soccer) Chicago, IL
JoAnna Eddy (Softball) Bethalto, IL
Jenna Bilyeu (Softball) Hillsboro, IL
Allie Leight (Softball) Johnsburg, IL
Elizabeth Sunderland (Softball) Bloomington, IL
Angela Becker (Softball) Highland, IL
Amy Foley (Softball) Riverton, IL
Jenifer Hoffman (Softball) Collinsville, IL
Brittany Schafer (Softball) Flora, IL
ChiKayla Moss (Softball) Rockford, IL
Keyria Rodgers (Basketball) Decatur, IL
Latrice Nettles (Basketball) Springfield, IL
Nadia Fuqua (Basketball) Columbus, GA
Kyle Holmes (Basketball) Peoria, IL
Dane Litwiller (Basketball) Stanford, IL
Matt Reynolds (Basketball) Peoria, IL
Aaron Leonard (Basketball) Effingham, IL
Brian McMillen (Basketball) Pana, IL
Colin Beveridge (Basketball) Springfield, IL
Curtis Collins (Basketball) Chicago, IL
Michael Griffin (Basketball) Litchfield, IL
Jennifer Gebben (Tennis) Casey, IL
Jennifer Cloyd (Tennis) Bloomington, IL
Christine Hofmann (Tennis) Belleville, IL
Sarah Wellard (Tennis) Lake Forest, IL
Nicole Cudimat (Tennis) Carol Stream, IL
Eric Cromer (Tennis) Granite City, IL
Esteban Czwan-Altobelli (Tennis) Buenos Aires, Argentina
Michael Angarita (Tennis) Bogata, Columbia
Michael Bloom (Tennis) Macomb, IL
Bladimir Hernandez (Tennis) Chicago, IL
From the UIS athletics web page: Thanks to Paul Macdonna
Prarie Star of the Week
By Mark Brockett - Sports Reporter
Four years ago, a young, tall and hopeful freshman came to UIS with a goal in mind: being a part of the UIS inaugural men’s basketball team. Today, he is providing significant senior leadership for the first-place team in the American Midwest Conference.
Michael Griffin has certainly helped shape the mentality of this years men’s basketball team with his aggressiveness and hard-nosed play. A native of Litchfield, Griffin sees this season as the best chance for success in the four-year history of the team.
“It helps to have a lot of guys on our team since it allows coach (Gamble) to run what he wants us to run,” said Griffin. “This year, we also have more of a team unit which is helping us out a lot.”
Thus far in conference play, Griffin has been backing down to no opposing players and his teammates feed off of his intensity. He feels like it wasn’t always that type of player.
“As a freshman, I wasn’t always aggressive with the ball. I didn’t always take the shot when I had it but now, when I see an opportunity, I usually take it.”
This season, Griffin’s experience has been vital for the Prairie Stars in big games. Most recently, Griffin had 16 points and 10 rebounds in a home win over Missouri Baptist, a win that solidified the Stars as a contender in the conference.
The coaching staff has seen the progression that Griffin has had and see it as a strong point for the team.
“I think Mike’s leadership is what really makes him the player that he is,” said assistant coach Aaron Boettcher. “The younger guys really look up to him and how tough he plays the game.”
Griffin has a lot of memories here as a player but he hopes that the best are yet to come.
“When we beat McKendree my freshman year, which was a great moment since they only lost three games all season. Hopefully, we will have a lot more games like that the rest of the way and into the national tournament.”
From an individual standpoint, Griffin could think of nothing better than to play in the NAIA national tournament. “It would be great for us to win our conference and play in the tournament, something that we’ve never done. It would be a good thing to accomplish in my last year.”
Griffin embodies what this men’s basketball team is all about and what they hope to become.