Salukis must win key games down the stretch

After their upset of Northern Iowa University on Wednesday, the Salukis could not keep the ball rolling as they fell to the Bradley University Braves Friday by six points.

SIU’s second half against the Panthers was one of the best halves it has played all season.

Sophomore guard Jalen Pendleton takes a jump shot Jan. 14 during the Salukis’ 68-66 win against the University of Northern Iowa at SIU Arena. Pendleton tallied eight points Friday as the Salukis were defeated 66-60 by Bradley University at the Peoria Civic Center. SIU hosts Drake University at 7:05 p.m. at SIU Arena. CHRIS ZOELLER · DAILY EGYPTIAN

Sophomore guard Jalen Pendleton takes a jump shot Jan. 14 during the Salukis’ 68-66 win against the University of Northern Iowa at SIU Arena. Pendleton tallied eight points Friday as the Salukis were defeated 66-60 by Bradley University at the Peoria Civic Center. SIU hosts Drake University at 7:05 p.m. at SIU Arena.
CHRIS ZOELLER · DAILY EGYPTIAN

The Salukis were not able to stop UNI junior Seth Tuttle, but slowed down other key players to get the win. SIU ended the game on a 16-2 run for its first home conference win of the season.

The team played with passion, urgency and finesse in the final minutes of the win.

Senior guard Desmar Jackson is becoming a complete player. He’s rebounding the ball well and his assist numbers are also rising. His defense is helping the team too. In the final seconds against UNI, Jackson made the go-ahead basket and then on the defensive end, had a crucial block to help seal the game.

Sophomore guard Anthony Beane did not play well the first two Missouri Valley Conference games, but has been hard to stop after those two games. Beane has taken better shots but needs to be more vocal on the court.

The loss to the Braves on Friday was tough. Jackson cannot carry the team by himself, as much as he is trying. He played 38 minutes in the loss to Bradley, and 35 minutes in the win against UNI. Hinson said he does not want Jackson to play that many minutes but it looks like he is going to have to for the foreseeable future.

Attempting to read Hinson’s mind is impossible. A player who played at least 20 minutes one game, might not see the floor the next game.

One of the biggest questions for the Salukis going forward this season is the post-position.

Senior Davante Drinkard has solid post moves, but is not quick enough to be able to make those moves. Freshman Bola Olaniyan still cannot find time on the court. Hinson said repeatedly if a player does not work hard in practice then they would not play in the game.

Junior Dawson Verhines played solid minutes against UNI but only 10 minutes against Bradley. Verhines had two fouls and did not attempt a shot in the loss.

One freshman, Sean O’Brien, has risen above all others and will be a dominant player in the MVC. O’Brien said he does not feel like a freshman anymore. In the next few years, O’Brien will be one of the top players in the Valley.

The usual spark from the bench for the Salukis is sophomore guard Jalen Pendleton. However, he has not been as productive in the past three games. Pendleton is averaging 6.6 points per game in the last three contests.

The Salukis will welcome the Drake University Bulldogs into SIU Arena Wednesday. The Bulldogs have a 10-8 record overall but are 1-5 in the MVC. The Bulldogs are led in scoring by senior Richard Carter who averages 18.3 points per game.

SIU is currently ninth in the conference standings with Drake the only team in its rearview mirror. The Salukis have some very winnable games the rest of the season. Missouri State University sophomore Marcus Marshall is out for the season, which is a huge blow for the Bears. There are 12 remaining conference games and SIU cannot drop easy games. The toughest remaining games for the Salukis are against Wichita State University on the road and a pair of games against the Sycamores of Indiana State University.

Tyler Dixon can be reached at tdixon@dailyegyptian.com, on Twitter @tdixon_DE, or 536-3311 ext. 282.

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