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Southern Illinois squad stuck on interstate, then spends night in church

By Stu Durando St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MCT) • Updated Jan 6, 2014 at 9:54 PM

The Southern Illinois University-Carbondale men’s basketball team and a coach stayed Sunday night at a church in Tuscola, Ill., after its bus became stuck in snow on Interstate 57 for several hours and had to be towed.

Coach Barry Hinson didn’t fare as well. Traveling separately because of recruiting plans, his car had to be pulled out of snow in Mattoon, Ill., and he said he ended up sleeping in his car.

The Salukis played Sunday afternoon at Illinois State in Bloomington-Normal. Their route home took them to Interstate 57.

The team bus had pulled off the highway because of low visibility and could not get going again, said SIUC athletics director Mario Moccia, who did not make the trip. The bus was towed back onto the highway a little after midnight, according to an athletic department spokesman.

The team then proceeded to a church that was taking in stranded motorists, and the players slept until 6 a.m.

“They’re still not doing so hot,” sports information director Tom Weber said at 9 a.m. “They pulled off again in Mattoon because the roads are still bad. They’re back on now but they’re going about 10 or 15 miles an hour. It’s just a bad scene.”

The team had enough food and gas to keep the bus running all night had no tow truck been available. Moccia said the team and assistant coach Anthony Beane were fine.

Hinson and two assistant coaches were driving ahead of the bus when they were stranded in Mattoon. The two assistants went to a hotel but Hinson stayed with the car to await a tow truck.

“They’re in bed all warm and snug,” Hinson wrote in a text Sunday night.

Eventually, he said via text message, he followed a snow plow into town, got gas and then opted to sleep in his car before attempting to drive south on I-57 at 8:30 a.m.

Because of the high number of accidents on the highway and the lack of injuries on the bus, the SIUC contingent was not an immediate priority for the highway patrol on Sunday night. Thus, they had to wait on the side of the interstate for several hours for help.

“A trooper stopped and said there were a lot of cars stranded and they were getting the people who were injured first,” said Weber, who stayed at a hotel in Bloomington. “Since no one was injured in the bus, it was going to be a while until they could get a tow truck to get them out.”

The delay in travel is all the more problematic because the Salukis have a game in Chicago on Wednesday night against Loyola. Thus, the team will have to board a bus again. The forecast for Wednesday in Chicago calls for a small amount of snow.

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