EDWARDSVILLE — Vadalabene Center will be humming at 7 p.m. Tuesday when Southern Illinois University Carbondale visits Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
The teams met last December in Carbondale, with the host Salukis pounding the Cougars 80-57 in the first game of a four-year deal. It had been since Nov. 28, 1987, that the teams had faced one another.
"We're pretty honored that Carbondale is willing to come up here and play us," said SIUE coach Lennox Forrester, whose team is 1-1. "I think it was a rivalry before I got here. We hadn't played them for quite a while before last year.
"So it's a very important game, and I think it's a game, too, that kind of gives SIUE some type of identity. We just became a Division I team, and everyone right now, every time you say SIUE --even though you stress the 'E' at the end --they still think it's the Salukis."
SIUC (2-0) fired coach Chris Lowery last March and replaced him with former Missouri State coach Barry Hinson. Expectations are not high for the Salukis, who were picked to finish last in the Missouri Valley Conference's preseason poll.
SIUE, which is 0-4 all-time against SIUC, had hoped to play the Salukis when students were on campus, but the Thanksgiving break will take a bite out of that support.
"It's a game we wanted to get when all the students were here," Cougars coach Lennox Forrester said. "But with the hiring of their (new) staff ... We didn't quite get it done with their old staff. Scheduling is hard. Trying to get the perfect date is hard to do."
The teams will meet again next year in Carbondale. The Salukis return to Edwardsville the following season to complete the contract.
"It's an honor for us to play them," Forrester said. "I know we'll be excited to do so. But I think it also gives us a chance to make a name for ourselves and kind of separate both schools. Great opportunity. Hopefully, our fans come out and support us and we can walk away with a win."
SIUE is coming off a 62-50 victory over Western Illinois after falling 83-69 at Missouri in its season opener. The Cougars are improved and would love nothing better than to build their confidence level with a victory.
"With this group, I never know what I'm going to get," Forrester said. "At Mizzou, to be honest with you, I was nervous and scared and anxious and everything you can possibly think of, for them. And they came out and played pretty hard ... and led for most of the first half.
"So I'm not sure what to think yet about Carbondale and how (our players) are going to come out. But hopefully, they come out with energy and at least give us a chance to win by executing and not getting too fired up to where we're not executing offensively and defensively."
Jerome Jones, a 6-foot-5 senior, scored a career-high 26 points and was 10-for-15 from the field in the Cougars' victory over Western Illinois on Wednesday. Senior Mark Yelovich had 13 points despite 5-for-14 shooting.
SIUE forced 18 turnovers and allowed just 16 baskets, half of them by Leathernecks senior Terell Parks.
The Salukis have defeated New Orleans (72-55) and Benedictine University-Springfield (100-62), an NAIA school. Five players reached double figures against Benedictine, led by senior guard Jeff Early's 19 points. Early has averaged 23 points and 9.5 rebounds in his first two games.
Sophomore forward Dantiel Daniels averages 14 points for the Salukis, while freshman guard Anthony Beane Jr. and junior guard Desmar Jackson each average 10.5 points.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.