Lance Jones blocks opponent at the Banterra Center Jan. 14, 2023 in Carbondale, Ill. (Mo Collar | @m0.alexander)
Lance Jones blocks opponent at the Banterra Center Jan. 14, 2023 in Carbondale, Ill.

Mo Collar | @m0.alexander

Saluki Basketball seniors looking to go out with a bang

January 27, 2023

With the Saluki Men’s Basketball season entering its final stretch of regular season games, the Dawgs have nearly eclipsed their win total from last year already, with over a third of the season still left to play. The stretch also signifies an ending for many of the core members of this year’s most important members: the seniors.

Ending the season with a ring has always been the end goal for this year’s Saluki Men’s Basketball seniors.

“Since the day Marcus [Domask], Lance [Jones], and I showed up on campus, starry eyed, shooting around in the Banterra Center, looking up at all of the banners, we knew for a fact we had to hang one before we left,” said senior Guard Trent Brown. 

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Coming to Southern for their freshman year in 2019, the three have always had their sights set on hanging a Missouri Valley Conference Championship banner in the Banterra Center. 

Over their four years here, this group has stuck together through teammates transferring out of the program, seniors graduating, and freshman and transfers coming into the program. One thing that has stayed consistent is their want to win and willingness to put forward the effort it takes to accomplish it.

“They’ve put in a lot of extra work over the past few years, they all have a year of eligibility left, but in terms of being in their fourth year at SIU, that’s all they’ve been about since they’ve been here. All they’ve cared about is winning, an MVC Championship is the goal this year for sure,” head coach Bryan Mullins said. 

Now that conference play is getting well into its stride for the season, there is a difference in attitude and game plan among the Salukis when it comes to Missouri Valley Conference opponents. Having been in the program for four years now, Brown, Jones and Domask see a lot of familiar faces when it comes to scouting. The courts and arenas have become a little more comfortable and familiar and rivalries have developed.

“When it comes to conference play, it’s all so familiar. It’s a lot of the same names we have played throughout the years so scouting for a team and executing our game plan becomes so vital in order to succeed,” Brown said.

Domask agreed with this: “Our scouting is more in depth, we get into a position where we’ve already played teams once before during the season so we can watch film of ourselves playing them to see what we need to work on more in depth than we would in a non-conference game situation.”

Ending last season 16-15 overall and 9-9 in conference play, the Dawgs have started this season with a will and a want to win which has given them their 15-5 overall and 7-2 in conference records so far this season. There has been a lot of leadership and growth brought to the team this season, and those leaders are partially responsible for the success so far. 

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“I think a lot of guys have taken a big jump. Marcus, Lance and Trent, this year is by far their best in terms of being leadership. I think JD Muila has stepped up as well as Dalton Banks. Those five guys have been in our program the longest out of anyone, so I think they understand what it takes, how we operate on a day-to-day basis, and what the standards are for this program,” Mullins said. 

Along with players who have been in the program for a while, the whole team is always willing to step up when needed. 

“We’re able to play a lot of different guys, and, if certain people aren’t playing that well, we have replacements to where we can always have fresh legs on the court,” Domask said. 

From a step up in leadership to a locker room full of talented players who are willing to put their all on the line, there is a lot that separates Southern Illinois not only from its MVC opponents but the team that they were last season. There is a new mindset in how the Salukis compete.

“It all started this summer when we got together. We could feel that the energy had picked up and it was up to us to do something with it,” Brown said. 

Two of the biggest leaders for this team have been the Jones and Domask duo. Having played a high number of minutes and in some big games throughout their careers, these two have a lot of experience under their belts that helps them understand what it takes to get the best outcome out of each game.

“I’ve trusted them in a lot of close games over the past couple years, and I think as you get that experience you understand how important every single possession is. I think they’ve matured and done a good job leading this season,” Mullins said. 

Brown said he, Domask and Jones have one clear goal for ending their fourth season. 

“It may seem cliche, but hanging an MVC championship banner in the arena would mean everything. It would show the culmination of all the work we have put in over the years and show that we worked for something bigger than ourselves,” Brown said. 

To stay up to date with all of your Southern Illinois news follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter. 

Sports reporter Joei Younker can be reached at [email protected].

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