USI celebrates historic day as men’s basketball program tips off new era
Screaming Eagles came away victorious in home opener on Sunday, earning first-ever Division I win
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The move to NCAA Division I opened a lot of new and exciting doors for the sports programs at the University of Southern Indiana, and the transition has been a fairly smooth one so far.
The USI men’s basketball team continued to get its first taste of Division I competition on Sunday, ushering in the new era with a convincing 71-53 home win against Southern Illinois.
“The crowd was electric, the guys played great,” USI Director of Athletics Jon Mark Hall said. “It was the atmosphere we hoped for. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
“Our guys may not appreciate or understand what it means to them now because they’re young, but I always tell them when they become my age, they’ll look back at this and realize what this moment meant to them,” USI head men’s basketball coach Stan Gouard said.
Gouard and his team certainly gave the crowd at Screaming Eagles Arena much to cheer for during its long-awaited home debut. With Sunday’s contest drawing an announced attendance of 3,071 people, the fan base was in a frenzy for most of the game.
“You hope you can get people out, get excited about it – Sunday afternoon’s not ideal, and our fans still came out – our students brought a ton of energy,” Hall said. “If you get beat and lose by 20, maybe you leave with a little different taste in your mouth, but also the guys just played fantastic.”
“To bring the first Division I opponent into our place tonight in SIU-Carbondale, but also coming out victorious,” Gouard said. “That’s something that’s going to go down in the record books.”
Another first was at the concessions. Beer was for sale to the public this weekend for the first time at Screaming Eagles Arena, and the fans that 14 Sports spoke with seemed to enjoy the new beverage option.
“I started watching Evansville sports, whenever the [Evansville IceMen] first came to town, and they sold beer there, so it’s been a good thing to have beer at sporting events,” USI basketball fan Mark Stone said. “I haven’t seen the crazy things, but just be responsible.”
“Our fans were respectful,” Hall said. “If we hear stories otherwise, then we’ll think about it, but I think it went off pretty well. The hope is that we’ll be able to provide that if they would like that in the future.”
With the home opener now in the books, the plan is to assess how the beer experiment went this weekend, and then decide whether to make it permanent.
Click here to watch highlights from Sunday’s game.
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