Saluki basketball games limit assists on both sides

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Saluki basketball games limit assists on both sides

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

In the midst of a four-game losing streak, Saluki men’s basketball is having some issues helping each other score high-percentage buckets.

This year’s squad gets an assist on 44.7 percent of all field goals made, which is the lowest rate in the Missouri Valley Conference. And the assist totals can be a big indication of if the Salukis will win or not. 

In the games SIU has won, it has 239 assists to 228 turnovers. In the games they’ve lost, the Dawgs have 55 assists to 102 turnovers.

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After Saturday’s 14-point loss to Loyola, senior guard Anthony Beane said the ball is “sticking to our hands” and that ball movement must improve.

Junior guard Leo Vincent said there are multiple ways this could be done.

“We have to stay aggressive,” he said. “Get the ball in the paint, playing inside out, having guys on the perimeter always staying ready, those will all get the assist numbers up.”

Coach Barry Hinson said the ball movement Vincent discussed has been lacking.

“The emphasis for the guards more so than anything is when the ball is in your hands, can you get a guy a great shot?” he said.  “Not a good shot, but a great shot.”

While the 44.7 percent assist rate is low, it is an increase from last year’s rate of 40.9 percent, which was 347th out of 351 Division I teams.

Junior guard Mike Rodriguez, whose 3.3 assists per game lead the team and is seventh in the MVC, is the main reason for the increase. If he finishes with that number or higher, he will be the first player since Kevin Dillard in the 2009-10 season (5.0) to average more than three assists per game.

The rest of the team is also doing better. Apart from junior forward Sean O’Brien and senior center Deng Leek, every returning Saluki has already surpassed their assist total from last year. O’Brien is on pace to pass his by season’s end.

“[Rodriguez] is a great guy to get his teammates involved,” Vincent said. “The guys are unselfish and trust each other.”

Even though the players claim to be unselfish, Hinson said the team has played selfish ball recently.

“We played selfish at Northern Iowa,” he said. “There’s a difference between playing selfish and being selfish. Sometimes when you decide you want to hit home runs … to me that’s playing selfish.”

However, on the other side of the ball, the Salukis are not allowing opponents to create easy buckets.

SIU’s 48.7 defensive assist rate is No. 3 in the MVC.

O’Brien said limiting penetration has been key to limiting opponents’ assist opportunities.

“When they get penetration, they can kick it out to open shooters so our emphasis is to stop that from happening,” he said.

With SIU being second in the MVC foul count (544), O’Brien believes the team’s aggressive defense can lead to more fouls but is not a direct correlation.

“I feel like if you do a good job keeping the ball out of the paint, then you’re not going to foul as much,” he said. “We just have to work on that.”

O’Brien and the team will need to work on the assists numbers, too, if they want to snap their four-game losing streak.

Thomas Donley contributed to this story.

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-537-3304.

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