EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Brian Barone will vividly remember his first game as Head Coach of the SIUE men's basketball team.
So will the Cougars.
They came out energized Tuesday at the First Community Arena in the Vadalabene Center and routed Fontbonne University of St. Louis 104-57 in the Cougars' lone exhibition game of the season.
"It was cool to experience this with these guys," said Barone, a former SIUE assistant coach. "These guys mean a lot to me and I care a lot about them."
Senior guard Tyresse Williford, who led SIUE with 15 points and also collected four assists, said the Cougars enjoyed their season debut.
"We have a lot of depth on this team and we got everybody involved tonight," he added. "We have a point to prove to everybody."
SIUE made its point time and time against Fontbonne. The Cougars connected on 19 of their first 23 shots and built a 41-7 lead on its way to a 60-23 halftime advantage against the Griffins.
They used an 18-0 run to forge their big lead and never look back. Nine players scored in the first half for SIUE, which hit on 28 of 40 shots. The tenacious defense, which forced 10 turnovers, complemented the torrid shooting.
"I thought we showed a lot of togetherness tonight, that's what impressed me the most," Barone said. "Our guys executed really well and took seriously what we gave them."
All figured, six players scored in double figures for the Cougars, who hit on 45 of 68 shots, including 6 of 18 from 3-point range. They also converted 8 of 11 free throws, outrebounded the Griffins 34-26 and had a dozen steals. SIUE's largest lead was 102-52 late in the game.
Starters Zeke Moore (12 points, four steals and three assists), Cam Williams (13 points and five assists) and reserves Mike Adewunmi (14 points), Kenyon Duling (13 points) and Iziah James (12 points) contributed plenty to the cause. The Cougars' bench depth accounted for 54 points.
"It's important to have that kind of depth," Barone said. "We have to be selfless all the time, work together and continue to build on things. "I want this team to get out and go and give the ball to Tyresse to do that."
That's fine with Willford. "Our type of offense is to get out and run," he said.
Barone said there's plenty of room for improvement. "We need to reverse the ball a little bit and get it inside more," he said. "We also have to go against pressure a little bit better. Fontbonne competed and bothered us with some things."
Caden Clark, a 6-foot sophomore guard from nearby Civic Memorial High in Bethalto, Illinois, scored 13 points to lead Fontbonne, an NCAA Division school and member of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The Cougars, 10-21 last year, start their regular season schedule Tuesday when Quincy comes to Edwardsville for a 7:30 game. The Hawks are members of the D-2 Great Lakes Valley Conference. SIUE then plays Friday, Nov. 8 at Iowa of the Big Ten Conference before returning home on Tuesday, Nov. 12 to welcome Valparaiso of the Missouri Valley Conference.