Tails between their legs, Salukis head for Wyoming

By Gus Bode

After dismal loss to St. Louis, Lowery asks his team to ‘grow up’ on road swing

The SIU men’s basketball team immediately headed out for Wyoming after a disappointing loss to the St. Louis University Billikens Wednesday night at the Savvis Center in St. Louis.

Any regrets or depression after the 56-42 loss were experienced on a bus and then a plane as the Salukis flew to Laramie, Wyo., to take on the Cowboys (3-2) Saturday afternoon at an arena affectionately nicknamed the “Dome of Doom.”

Advertisement

SIU head coach Chris Lowery said the Salukis were ready to move on after a difficult seventh-place finish in the Great Alaska Shootout over the Thanksgiving weekend. The same sentiment is likely in place after SIU (2-3) fell to the Billikens, but all the travel will take an undeniable toll on a Saluki squad already wrestling with demons.

“It’s tough, but I wanted to do this to try to make those guys understand how hard it is to win on the road,” Lowery said. “That’s going to help us in the long run. They’re going to have to grow up at some point.”

Junior guard Jamaal Tatum, who led the Salukis with 11 points but shot just .235 from the field against SLU, said the travel does have an effect on the body but conditioning should take care of that aspect. What remains, he said, is mental.

“You know you’re going to get tired … but that’s stuff you have to fight through,” Tatum said. “You can’t even let that play a part in your mind when you get out on the court.”

The Salukis will have to fight fatigue from jetlag, as well as the near 7,500-foot elevation of the Cowboys’ Arena. That is daunting enough, but Wyoming has two 6-foot-10 starters who weigh an average of almost 230 pounds each.

Cowboys center Justin Williams is one of those big men, averaging a double-double with 12.5 points and almost 16 rebounds a game. Forward Daaron Brown is another. He contributes almost seven points a game and four boards per contest.

“They’re very physical and very athletic,” Lowery said. “One of them is a tremendous shot-blocker and the other one can score. It’s definitely going to test our will.”

Advertisement

And while the Salukis managed to step up their defensive efforts against the Billikens, allowing them to score just 56 points, the SIU offense needs a jumpstart. SIU’s 42 points was the lowest total since 1986. The Salukis shot just 28 percent from the field, and while defense wins games, offense certainly helps.

“We really have to look inside ourselves right now,” said sophomore forward Randal Falker, the team’s leading rebounder with seven boards a game. “We have to score shots and hit free throws.”

SIU might have that chance against the Wyoming, a team that allows opponents 65 points a game and was picked to finish seventh in the Mountain West Conference. Still, Lowery and the Salukis approach games with a workman-like defense intent on wearing down opponents. Trading buckets back and forth is not the SIU style.

Lowery said he wants a competitiveness from the Salukis that has been strangely absent thus far in the season. The Billikens turned SIU’s play style – which Lowery characterized as “smashmouth” – against the Salukis and it showed.

“We’re not doing the things we need to do,” Lowery said. “We have to correct that, or it will be a long season for us. We’re not tough enough right now.”

Reporter Gabe House can be reached at [email protected]

Advertisement