Scouting the Sycamores

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

There will be a men’s basketball battle for sole possession of fourth place in the Missouri Valley Conference on Wednesday night.

SIU (18-7, 7-5 MVC) is currently tied with Indiana State (13-11, 7-5 MVC). Both are coming off of tough losses Saturday.

The Salukis lost to the Ramblers, extending their losing streak to four, while the Sycamores gave the Bradley Braves their fourth win on the season.

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“They say confidence is contagious, so is lack of confidence,” coach Barry Hinson said. “We’ve got to figure that out, and that includes the head coach. We’ve got to figure out how do we teach these guys about what they’re doing wrong.”

During its losing streak, SIU opponents have shot 50.2 percent overall while only the Dawgs are shooting 39 percent. After the loss to Loyola, Hinson said his team tuned him out and was not listening to his message of sharing the ball and getting great shots. 

The fiery coach tried to clarify his comments Tuesday.

“It’s not in a selfish way, it’s just human nature that when we start getting beat, we go into a shell and think we can do it on our own, but we can’t,” he said.

In their previous matchup, the Salukis defeated the Sycamores 79-66. Junior guard Leo Vincent led the way with 18 points on a night that senior guard Anthony Beane struggled to score, finishing with a season-low eight points.

Knowing that, Hinson said fans can expect to see a quick rotation of players when the Salukis travel to Indiana State.

“You’re going to see an enormous amount of subs [Wednesday] to start the game,” he said. “We’re going to ask our guys to do certain things and if they don’t do those things, we’re going to sub them, tell them why they’re coming out, then boom, go back in.”

Although Indiana State and SIU are eighth and 10th in the MVC in average height, the teams have five of the MVC’s top-15 rebounders.

Junior center Bola Olaniyan (8.5 rebounds per game) is second and junior forward Sean O’Brien (5.8) is seventh leading the Dawgs, while Sycamores junior guard Everett Clemons (6.6) is third, senior forward Khristian Smith (5.5) is ninth and senior guard Devonte Brown (4.9) is 13th.

After his 16-rebound performance — the most allowed by a Hinson-coached SIU team — Clemons has the Salukis’ attention.

“He’s their leading rebounder, fourth in minutes played and he comes off the bench,” Hinson said. “Our guards have to rebound, that’s one of the things we’ve been missing.”

Brown and sophomore guard Brenton Scott are dangerous for the Sycamores because they’re fifth and sixth in the Valley in scoring at 16 and 15.5 points per game.

“Brown and Scott are Batman and Robin,” Hinson said. “As far as points go, they’re the best two [guards] in the league.”

In their previous matchup, the two combined for 36 of Indiana State’s 66 points. Hinson knows his guards will have to perform better if they want to sweep the Sycamores.

“We don’t have two guards who can get 25 [points] like they can,” Hinson said.

Brown is also the Valley’s most frequent free-throw shooter, averaging just shy of eight attempts per game. He’s also made the most, averaging more than six makes per game. He has made 30 more free throws than the Valley’s next-highest total: Evansville senior guard D.J. Balentine’s 118.

Hinson said the team has to stay focused to keep Brown away from the free-throw stripe and keep his team out of foul trouble.

If the Salukis can hold the Sycamores to 37 percent field goal shooting again, while getting some points from Beane and Vincent, the losing streak has a good chance of ending. The game tips off at 6 p.m.

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3304.

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