Saluki basketball programs speak on season pauses due to COVID-19

Southern+Illinois+Saluki+number+20+forward%2C+Gabby+Walker%2C+goes+for+a+basket+against+Indiana+State+Sycamores+during+the+Friday+night+woman%E2%80%99s+basketball+game+at+the+SIU+Banterra+Center.+The+game+ended+with+SIU+at+60+and+ISU+at+42+on+February+21%2C+2020.

Nicole Tillberg | @nicoletillberg315

Southern Illinois Saluki number 20 forward, Gabby Walker, goes for a basket against Indiana State Sycamores during the Friday night woman’s basketball game at the SIU Banterra Center. The game ended with SIU at 60 and ISU at 42 on February 21, 2020.

Both the SIU men’s and women’s basketball programs have had several games postponed this season due to positive COVID-19 tests within their programs.

Most recently, the Saluki men’s program announced on Jan. 8 the postponement of four games, two against Indiana State and two against Valparaiso.

The men’s program currently sits at 7-4 overall with a 1-4 record in Missouri Valley Conference play. They’re on a four-game losing streak (as of Monday) since an undefeated 7-0 start and took a three-week break from play due to the virus. 

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The men’s team previously had to drop out of the Louisville MTE to start the season. This was the second stoppage this season. 

The women’s program recently announced on Jan. 13 the postponement of four of their games as well due to positive COVID-19 tests, two against Loyola Chicago and two against Valparaiso. They will resume play on Jan. 27 against Missouri State.

The Saluki women’s team had two earlier games postponed, but this would be their first time missing multiple, consecutive games this year. 

The women’s program is 5-4 overall and 2-2 within the MVC. They have lost two straight games, both coming against Bradley and haven’t played since Jan. 9. 

Men’s basketball head coach Bryan Mullins spoke on Jan. 19 during the MVC coaches media day about this stoppage and the effect it’s had on the team and players. 

“Every team at some point has gone through it and for us it’s our second go around with taking a little pause but our guys are doing good,” Mullins said. 

Trent Brown, a sophomore guard, discussed the team’s reaction and said the team has done what they could but the virus cannot be completely avoided.

“Nobody can really outrun this virus. You can do as much as you can and take as many precautions to help you elongate your time. We just knew that there’s nothing you can do, we did everything right that you could and we were still hit with it,” Brown said. 

Mullins also talked about the Salukis’ return to play after COVID-19 policy and how that affects the team’s ability to get back to full strength. 

“Day one is 15 minutes, the next day is 20 minutes and then 30, the fourth day you can start lifting and just gradually until that seventh day when you can do a full practice or compete in a game,” Mullins said.

Mullins said he has had more time to watch other teams than normal and said he thinks the team will be good to play on Monday, Jan. 25 against Indiana State.

“As long as nothing happens in the next four days with injuries or testing situations but we should have eight scholarship players able to play Monday,” Mullins said

Mullins said that some of the players who didn’t test positive were able to get in the gym and shoot around by themselves. 

Mullins applauded the MVC and said they have done a great job allowing the Salukis a chance to get all their games in. 

Mackenzie Silvey, a senior guard on the women’s team talked about the Salukis reaction to the temporary stoppage and said the team is doing their best to stay safe. 

“We were disappointed but we know that we’ve done everything we can to stay safe, I mean it’s just gonna happen regardless at this point so yeah we were disappointed but we knew we just need to focus on what we can control and continue to work hard,” Silvey said. 

Rachel Pudlowski, a senior forward, discussed the team’s reaction and said it’s emotional when games have to be canceled due to the pandemic. 

“It’s heartbreaking every single time because it’s a different person who may or may not go out and it’s also different emotions when it’s our team going out and canceling a game than another team going out and canceling a game,” Pudlowski said. 

She also said the team was very frustrated when their Dec. 22 game against Illinois was cancelled because of a false positive. 

Pudlowski discussed the practices with less players. 

“We definitely get in and get after it when we do have practice. Practice times have definitely been shorter with there only being five of us. We go for about an hour, hour and a half but we’ve been working on a lot of 1v1, 2v2 breakdowns, different plays and maybe some alterations we might do and what to expect from our upcoming opponents,” Pudlowski said

Pudlowski said the team has done a good job staying in touch with each other even though they haven’t been able to see each other in person.

Silvey spoke on the team’s ability to win right out of the stoppage.

“I think honestly we’ll never be 100% this year, I don’t think any team is because you don’t know who’s gonna be out, who’s gonna be sick or contact tracing. So, I think it’s just trying to work through the uncertainties but I think we’ve been working hard at practice with the half that can and the other half I know they’re doing stuff to stay in shape on their own,” Silvey said

Pudlowski said the team will be positive about their chances in games no matter how many players they have that day.

Silvey also said the team should have three or four practices before the team will play a game. 

The men’s team resumed play on Jan. 25 and 26 against Indiana State on the road and dropped the first game of the series 69-66.

The women’s program will play again on Jan. 27 against Missouri State on the road.

Sports reporter Ryan Scott can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @RyanscottDE. 

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