The SIU men’s basketball team is 8-8, 1-4 in Missouri Valley conference play. There are still 13 conference games left to play, a BracketBusters game against an unreleased opponent, the MVC tournament and a possible trip to the NCAA tournament.
Yet, the Salukis have already tied all of last season’s wins.
Coach Barry Hinson has dealt with discipline problems, suspensions, countless injuries, and lack of depth at the post position in his first season with the team. He has withstood some of those issues by keeping his team focused and humble.
Friday, Hinson said he would send, junior guard Desmar Jackson, the team’s leading scorer, home and dismiss him from the team if his conduct didn’t improve.
“This is something that I just came in and told my staff, ‘This is what I’m going to do. I’m worn out. I’m tired of it. I’ve come to the point that this is what we’re going to do, and we’re going to make a decision,’” Hinson said at a press conference Friday. “It doesn’t have anything to do with points. It has everything to do with effort and attitude and respect and punctuality and doing the little things right.”
The coach’s remarks came just days after Jackson scored 28 points in a close 71-65 Wichita State defeat in Kansas.
Jackson has improved drastically over the course of the season. The Wyoming transfer struggled in the first few games, but the scoring demands of the junior guard’s scoring demands have only increased since he made the game-winning shot against Fresno State. Jackson has scored 20 points or more in six games this season, and he notched a career-high 29 points against Indiana State Saturday.
Although rebounding has been one of the Salukis’ strengths for the past two seasons, no player has been as “big” as senior guard Jeff Early.
Early leads the team in rebounds with an average 7.5 boards per game. The 6-foot-1 guard has seen his team role go from scoring a high number of shots in transition to focus on playing defense primarily and outrebounding the opponent’s big men.
Before the World Vision Classic in Logan, Utah, Early averaged just less than 18 points per game. Since then, his points have dipped to 12.8 per game. However, the Salukis don’t need Early to score in bundles with Jackson’s increased scoring numbers.
The team would perform on an even higher level if he continued to improve his rebounds numbers.
The freshmen are also key to the Salukis’ 2012-2013 success compared to where they were a year ago. Freshman guard Jalen Pendleton has added some scoring and defensive ability to a team that lacks at the point guard position. Although Pendleton is the prototypical two-guard, he has shown flashes of his ability to play point for Hinson in the future.
The first-year guard is still a raw talent and looks hurried in key situations, but he has played good defense coming off the bench this year.
Fellow freshman Anthony Beane Jr. has been phenomenal for the Salukis this year. He is the team’s third leading scorer and has become a constant starter recently. Beane Jr. is often asked to defend the opposing team’s best player, which is usually a tough task for a first year player. He accepted that challenge and managed to shoot well from the perimeter.
With Saturday’s win against WSU, SIU men’s basketball looks like it belongs in a very tough Missouri Valley conference. Junior guard Diamond Taylor is set to return tomorrow against Bradley, and the Salukis will need him to be the player he was when he was recruited if they plan to continue this season’s success. MVC teams will begin to double (or triple) team Jackson, and Taylor is the next best perimeter threat on the team.