Covid delays and cancellations continue for men’s and women’s basketball teams

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Dominique Martinez-Powell | @dmartinez_powell.photography

SIU basketball player, Quierra Love, looks for an opening during the game against the Illinois State Redbirds Jan. 20, 2022 at the Banterra Center in Carbondale, Ill.

Over the past couple of months, Covid delays, cancellations and pauses have affected the SIU men’s and women’s basketball seasons.

Between the women’s and men’s teams, a total of six different contests have had to be rescheduled, postponed or canceled. The latest cancellation was a women’s game against Indiana State.

The women were supposed to travel to Terre Haute Indiana to play the Sycamores on Jan 27. However due to Covid complications, The Sycamores ruled they were unable to play on the scheduled date and have moved the game to Feb. 9.

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Such concerns have been lingering ever since the pandemic began back in early 2020. A season ago, the schedule was restructured so the teams would play in two-game series of home-and-home. Meaning, the teams would play two consecutive games against the same opponent, one at home and one on the road.

Throughout last season, nine different games had to be rescheduled or canceled between the men’s and women’s teams. Some games were even added to counteract the loss of games in this instance.

With these cancellations, pauses and delays comes a lot of hardships for the players in terms of scheduling. At certain points, players would have an extended amount of time off from playing in the middle of the season. At other times, the teams might be playing every other day to make up for lost time.

Men’s junior guard Trent Brown said each player is using the days off wisely to focus on themselves.

“It’s annoying to break up the play but I would say more so that we are using it as a tool,” Brown said. “Everyone took advantage of it in their own way whether it was rest if they did contract the virus or if they were grinding on the court the whole time.”

On the flip side, Brown said whenever the team has had a tight schedule of playing games, the routine stays the same with high-intensity practices whenever possible.

“There isn’t too much of a worry in terms of exhaustion and stuff like that. Our goal is to win every game on the schedule and to do whatever it takes to make that happen,” Brown said.

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Coach Bryan Mullins, having coached through two different seasons riddled with Covid issues now, said focusing on the present is the best thing his players and he can do during a big break.

“Try not to let it take all your energy and emotion away from the things you can control,” he said. “Do the best you can at the present time and not worry about the next day, week, or whatever is ahead of you, but to really focus on the present.”

Mullins said the players have still been eager to play all these games in a short period of time, despite the little amount of rest the players have received.

“All they want to do is play basketball right now. We haven’t got as many live reps in practice to go over scouts and things like that, but playing a game on Saturday and then immediately again on Monday, as a student-athlete what more could you want,” Mullins said.

On the women’s side of things, the’ Salukis will be starting a stretch of five games in ten days starting from Feb. 4-13. Just like the men’s team, preparation time will be low for a lot of these games. Senior point guard Caitlin Link said the team is accepting the situation for what it is. Link said the team is not going to overdo it at practice but will be prepared for other teams in scouting.

“We’re not going to sit here and complain about it or get too nervous about it. We’re just going to play our game,” Link said.

At separate points in the season, the women’s team has 16, 11, 8, and 7 day long breaks between certain games. Link said throughout those breaks, the team stayed ready to play.

“We were sick of playing each other so much. It was obviously difficult at the same time with not playing and we weren’t getting in the flow like some of these other teams. But the anticipation of it made us all ready for that next game,” Link said.

Link said the previous year’s scheduling has given the team confidence in being able to handle the upcoming stretches of games they’ll be facing.

“We’ve gone into this year saying whatever happens we’ll deal with it the best way we can. We’re very thankful now for playing a game. Anytime we have a game and the season’s going normal, we appreciate it more than we did in the past,” Link said.

Mullins of the men’s team would concur with Link’s statements for his own squad. Mullins said the team’s maturity is better now considering the scheduling of last season.

“The mental part and the preparation part have been huge for our guys. Last year with the back-to-back games has helped us prepare a bit and I think the maturity of the team now that we got some older guys,” Mullins said.

Brown said he’s been appreciative of the way the scheduling has been this season to prepare for cancellations like these to happen and still work around fitting them in to play the games at a later date.

“I don’t think anyone has the perfect answer for anything with this, but I think the league has done a great job restructuring their rules to allow rescheduled games instead of a cancellation and an automatic loss for the team that can’t play,” Brown said.

The seasons for both the men’s and women’s teams will continue barring another one of these delays, cancelation or postponements. As of the time of publication, the men will continue their season Saturday, Feb. 5 at Illinois State, while the women will continue Friday, Feb. 4 at home against Missouri State.

Sports reporter Joseph Bernard can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @Jojobernard2001. To stay up to date on all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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