Salukis prepare to win down the stretch

The Saluki men’s basketball team snapped a five-game losing streak in an impressive upset of Indiana State 76-71, Jan. 12 in the SIU Arena. SIU dropped the last two games since its win over the Sycamores and need to make adjustments to win in the conference.

With the conference schedule nearly halfway complete, Missouri Valley teams have realized how to best strategize for SIU — feed the ball into the post. With junior forward Davante Drinkard seeing less play time recently, the tallest Saluki player on the court is usually 6-foot-5 junior guard Desmar Jackson.

The team’s best post scorer, by far, is sophomore forward Dantiel Daniels. The post man holds the team’s highest shooting percentage at 66 percent and is one of four Salukis to average double- digit points on the year. However, he lacks superior size at 6-foot-5, and larger opposition such as Illinois State’s 6-foot- 9 forward Jackie Carmichael has taken better advantage of the size difference.

In the Salukis’ last three losses, they have been outrebounded by 22.

Senior guard Jeff Early has rebounded terrifically this season and is the team’s second scoring option (13.2). Early’s effort on the glass has also risen as the competition level increased. Theseniorhybridguardhasledthe team’s rebounds in five of the last seven conference games.

If the Salukis intend to improve their conference record, someone other than Early must step up and grab rebounds. Jackson has pulled down more than six rebounds per game, but he could average close to eight with his size. Daniels has yet to recover from an ankle injury and hasn’t shown the same productivity on the rebounding end as he did in his freshman season. 6-foot-9 Drinkard hasn’t been effective on either end of the court this year and coach Barry Hinson has started to run a much quicker and smaller line up.

During a prolific run in the second half ‘s opening minutes against ISU on Sunday, SIU climbed to within 11 points of the Redbirds who led 49-21 at halftime. The switch from a primarily man-to-man defense to a zone press seemed to throw ISU off guard. Offensively, Illinois State only scored five points in the second half’s first 10 minutes.

If Hinson switches his defensive looks at opportune times, he may be able to get the most from his smaller team.

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