Meeks Madness gives fans a first look

EVANSVILLE, Ind. –About three weeks from the whistleblower, the University of Evansville men’s and women’s basketball teams entertained a large crowd at Meeks Family Fieldhouse on Saturday night during “Meeks Madness.”

Formerly called Hoopfest, it was an opportunity for both teams to engage with the community and put on a show as they cemented new eras for a pair of dormant programs.

“Both teams have worked extremely hard since we were able to start training,” said men’s coach David Ragland. “It’s just a night for them to have fun, let our fans see it, appreciate what we’ve done and find out who our roster is.”

There’s not much to say about Meek Madness from a review standpoint. The event was organized to bring fans to see both teams as they enter Year 1 under Ragland and Year 2 under Women’s Coach Robyn Scherr-Wells.

“That’s the kind of thing we haven’t done in the last two years because of COVID, so definitely a good time to be able to come back,” Scherr-Wells said. “To see the community come out, do something with the men’s basketball team – so that was really fun.”

Men’s scrum

While there was little to take away from a 15-minute inter-squad scrimmage, there were some things to consider. First, the starters of both teams:

Purple:

  • Blaise Beauchamp
  • Gage Bobe
  • Preston Phillips
  • Chris Moncrief
  • Yacine Toumi

Orange:

  • Anthony Smith Jr.
  • Kenny Strawbridge Jr.
  • Marvin Coleman II
  • Sekou Kalle
  • Gabe Spinelli

Orange won 30-24, and while a game like this cannot be dissected too thoroughly, there was plenty to see. In particular, Spinelli showed why he was one of the hottest freshmen on the team. The opening possession, he immediately got up on an alley-oop lob to give his team the lead. He provided assists and showed that he would be valuable on the point and could also play as a shooting guard.

Coleman will likely be UE’s leading ball handler and should be. He’s a multi-dimensional playmaker who has shown he can shoot deep and find a good pass in the paint. The intriguing part was seeing him and Spinelli take the ball down the pitch together, which shows both their versatility.

Yacine Toumi (10) of Evansville cleans up Chris Moncrief (12) of Evansville in the dunk contest during Meeks Madness at the Meeks Family Fieldhouse in Evansville, Ind., Saturday night, October 15, 2022.

Kalle and Toumi have both shown that they can play the position. Toumi was more of a threat on the offensive end, showing his ability to come out and hit 3s while Kalle played well defensively. Both grabbed rebounds on both sides.

The Aces may have had more offensive rebounds at Meeks Madness than they did all of last season. Of course, the numbers a year ago were partly down to the design of falling back on defense rather than going for second-chance points, but both teams were impressive on the glass. It’s been one of Ragland’s calling cards since he was hired.

“That’s going to be a priority for us, just picking up our misses,” Ragland said. “If we can be serious offensively in one area, it would be offensive rebounds. We will encourage to go there. We will be strategic in how we do it.”

Both teams struggled from the 3-point line at the start of the scrimmage, but grew as the 15-minute mini-game progressed. Beauchamp had a nice back attempt that didn’t drop, but the ability to create a shot for himself is something he and the Aces will need this season.

Ragland pointed to both teams scoring as a good sign of depth. He has spoken of having a deeper rotation at the start of the season and reducing it as games progress, and the Aces have shown they have several players who can fill in on the pitch. Of course, doing it against the guys you see every day and playing in an official competition are two different things, but there was a lot to take away from those 15 minutes.

“Our band is a hard working band,” Ragland said. “We’re gonna have fun and we’re gonna go up and down. It’s gonna be a fun brand of basketball.”

Evansville's Anna Newman (1) aims for a three-point shot during Meeks Madness at Meeks Family Fieldhouse in Evansville, Ind., Saturday night, October 15, 2022.

Women’s scrum

As with the men’s scrimmage, there’s not much to gain from 15 minutes of basketball. First of all, the holders of the women’s game:

Purple:

  • Abby Feit
  • Myia Clark
  • Anna Newman
  • A’Niah Griffin
  • Barbora Tormancova

Orange:

  • Kynidi Mason-Striverson
  • Celine DuPont
  • Jossie Hudson
  • Rayah Kincer
  • Elly Morgan

Purple won 16-9, which is likely to be expected due to Orange’s roster comprising three subclasses. Coach Robyn Scherr-Wells was quick to point out that no decision on a starting five had been made, but that Purple’s five must all be great contributors, regardless of their starting role.

Mason-Striverson was Orange’s standout performer. The true freshman showed why she was an Indiana star as a high schooler and accounted for most points for her team, whether it was scoring, assisting or being the assist at hockey. Mason-Striverson should see plenty of playing time for Scherr-Wells if that’s the kind of performance she consistently brings to the training gym.

Newman will likely be the starting point guard, which is to be expected. The North’s fifth-year graduate struggled from the 3-point line but showed the ability to get into the paint and score, which is what UE will need to compete in the Missouri Valley Conference this season .

Myia Clark (32) of Evansville goes for a three-point shot during Meeks Madness at Meeks Family Fieldhouse in Evansville, Ind., Saturday night, October 15, 2022.

Feit showed why she’s an all-conference player. She’s a tiered scorer and someone who can get into the paint or step back and shoot the 3.

As the game progressed, Aces were better at the edge. They struggled there early on but got better as the game went on. Perhaps these struggles were due to the defense, which looked good on both sides of the scrum.

“Hopefully people got a little insight into our style of play and how we can score and go up and down, and we’re pretty evenly balanced,” Scherr-Wells said. “I think we’ve seen goals from our guards, but we’ve also seen what we can do inside.”

Contest winners

Feit won the women’s 3-point shooting contest, while Smith won the men’s. When the two faced off to determine the ultimate winner, Smith won by one point.

Spinelli won the dunk contest, beating Logan McIntire, Zaveion Chism-Okoh and Toumi.

About Kimberly Alley

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