The men’s basketball team suffered its first loss of the season against St. Louis University, 71-61 Saturday.
The Salukis struggled offensively and couldn’t recover from a slow start. SIU had the third-best field goal shooting percentage in the nation at 58 percent going into the game but only shot 24 percent in the first half against the Billikens. After the first 30 minutes of play, the Salukis made only one 3-point field goal with no points from the free throw line.
Coach Barry Hinson said the St. Louis team was different from most others SIU will play this year.
“They are very unique — their bigs play like guards, and their guards play like drivers who are more comfortable inside the arc,” Hinson said.
For the third time this season, senior guard Jeff Early led the Salukis in scoring (15 points). Freshman guard Anthony Beane Jr. started for the second time this season and had 7 points.
Senior guard Kendall Brown-Surles struggled with shooting as he went 1-5 from the field, but notched five assists in the contest. Sophomore forward Dantiel Daniels scored in double figures for the second straight game since he returned from a groin injury but struggled with foul trouble and had four personal fouls.
The Saluki bench scored just four points and failed to provide a lift offensively for the struggling starters.
The Billikins shot 51 percent from the field and made 8-18 three-pointers. SLU attempted 20 fewer shots than SIU and held the Salukis to six transition points.
Hinson said the defense didn’t execute well against SLUs offense.
“We have some major focus problems,” Hinson said. “You look at what (Rob) Loe and (Cody) Ellis did tonight, I promise you, we had big circles around their names that they like to step out and shoot the three, and I think Loe is going to send (SIU junior forward) Davante Drinkard a Christmas card.”
Both teams played short-handed. SIU was without starting sophomore forward Antonio Bryer and reserve sophomore guard Josh Swan, and SLU was short three players, including its top scorer because of injuries.
“It’s the next guy up — the season is long,” said SLU coach Jim Crews. “As much as I believe in the process, you still get a little antsy to get the process moving quicker.”
The Salukis played from behind for the game’s entirety, but they had flashes of good defensive and offensive play.
“I told them part of this is on me. The first half we were stagnant, and the second half we did some things better,” Hinson said. “The most encouraging thing is we didn’t quit.”