It is gut-check time for the SIU men’s basketball team.
The Salukis are tied for third in the Missouri Valley Conference standings, making Wednesday’s game against the University of Northern Iowa one of the most important games of the season.
After losses to Wichita State University and Indiana State University two weeks ago, SIU won its last two games.
The team is playing better as of late. One of the best moves Coach Barry Hinson made this season was putting senior Desmar Jackson as the top man on defense. Jackson is long and very quick. He is great at getting his hands on the ball and taking it the length of the court.
Jackson’s game has been able to expand this season with the re-emergence of sophomore Anthony Beane. Beane has been on a different level and every facet of his game has excelled. In the last eight games, he has scored at least 20 points in seven of them. Last Tuesday, in the win over Bradley University, Beane tied his career-high with 27 points and added eight rebounds.
The game against the Braves was also the return of sophomore guard Marcus Fillyaw. Fillyaw logged a decent amount of minutes and played well. Beane has to stay in the position he has been in. He is at his best when he is running the floor.
Hinson’s lineups have been the same the last month but before that, it was a mystery who would start for the Salukis.
The post-position has been an issue for the Salukis. Seniors Davante Drinkard and Bronson Verhines were staples in the lineup but now have trouble getting time on the court.
Youth is the trend for Hinson’s decisions as the season is progressing. Freshman Bola Olaniyan and Sean O’Brien are the pillars in the post for the Dawgs.
Olaniyan had seven offensive rebounds against the University of Evansville Saturday, while the Purple Aces had nine offensive rebounds as a team. Hinson said teams are forcing Olaniyan to foul, which keeps him out of the game and the Salukis off of the boards. Olaniyan will be a dominant force.
The upcoming game against the Panthers of UNI is huge. SIU stole a victory in Carbondale Jan. 14 but Seth Tuttle and his team will look to get revenge. The Panthers are also tied for third with the Salukis.
After Wednesday, the final regular season game for the Salukis is Saturday when they face the Illinois State University Redbirds. ISU is another team in the logjam at the third position in the MVC.
The games this week will determine if the Salukis can avoid playing in that opening night game. If they win both games, then they have no worries and will be playing Friday. They have a one-game lead on Bradley, who is in the seventh spot. Bradley has two tough games remaining; they face the Wichita State University Shockers tonight and the Drake University Bulldogs Saturday.
Follow @DEsalukis on Twitter for updates on the MVC standings as the week progresses.
Tyler Dixon can be reached at tdixon@ dailyegyptian, @tdixon_de on Twitter or 536-3311 ext. 256.