What we learned from SIU’s loss to Illinois State

What we learned from SIU's loss to Illinois State

By Evan Jones, @EvanJones_DE

In SIU’s 73-50 loss to Illinois State on Wednesday, the Salukis were out of contention early in the ball game.

With one game remaining in the regular season, SIU doesn’t have much time to improve on its mistakes.

Here’s what we learned from the loss.

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The Salukis peaked at the wrong time.

SIU is 4-6 in the last 10 games. In that span, the team is shooting 41 percent from the field — five percentage points fewer than its season average — and scoring seven fewer points per game.

After the best start to a season in program history since 2006-07, the Salukis seem to have already played their best basketball. 

The team’s assist-to-turnover ratio in the past 10 games is .79, meaning for every assist the Salukis dish out, they commit 1.26 turnovers. SIU’s season assist-to-turnover ratio is .88, which is No. 7 in the Missouri Valley Conference.

It seems the defense has also been slacking in recent games. 

Opponents are shooting 48 percent in the past 10 games, and have assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.2. Saluki opponents are averaging 71.9 points in this span and have scored 18 more points than the Dawgs. Opponents are averaging about four more points per game than SIU over the last month. On the season, SIU is outscoring opponents by five points per game on average. 

SIU needs to get to the rim to free jump shooters.

It took seven minutes for a Saluki to attempt a layup Wednesday. Four of SIU’s 15 points in the first half were in the paint. In the second half, SIU scored 35 points — 20 in the paint — and shot 42 percent.

If the Salukis want to move past the first round in the conference tournament, they need to establish their presence in the paint. If a team is able to force them to take outside shots, it will be a quick exit for coach Barry Hinson’s team.

Hinson has tightened the leash on his Dawgs.

To begin the second half, Hinson started junior guard Leo Vincent and freshman guard Armon Fletcher in place of junior guards Tyler Smithpeters and Mike Rodriguez.

After Smithpeters and Rodriguez combined for one point in the first half, Hinson was quick to make a change. Vincent and Fletcher combined for 12 points in the second half, with 10 from Fletcher. Smithpeters was held scoreless all game and played four minutes in the second half.

Vincent and Fletcher led the Salukis in time on the court in the second half, both playing 16 minutes.

In defense of the two guards who were replaced, there wasn’t much offense in the first half from any Saluki. Junior forward Sean O’Brien scored six of SIU’s 15 points in the first 20 minutes.

Hinson said after the game that he may adjust the lineups for the team’s final regular-season game against Missouri State on Saturday. 

O’Brien and Fletcher will lead the pack next season.

Senior guard Anthony Beane is graduating next season, and there has been a lot of talk about which Saluki will fill the gap left by the No. 3 scorer in program history.

Beane finished the game with two points. The leading scorers for the Salukis were O’Brien and Fletcher with 14 and 13 points.

While Fletcher is listed on the roster as a guard, he has experience playing center in high school and could easily make the transition to forward. He is shooting 43 percent on the season and is averaging 6.7 points per 20 minutes. 

O’Brien is shooting 51 percent this season and is averaging eight points per 20 minutes. 

In comparison, Beane is averaging 11 points per 20 minutes. While O’Brien and Fetcher won’t be expected to replace Beane, they will be able to contribute on a consistent basis.

The Salukis will play Northern Iowa in the first round of the MVC Tournament.

With the loss, SIU (10-7 in MVC play) secured either the No. 4 or No. 5 spot in the tournament. UNI, which is also 10-7, won Wednesday against Indiana State to also avoid participating in a play-in game. 

The Salukis split the season series with the Panthers, with each team winning its home game. Having a higher seed won’t matter much in the tournament though, as all games are on a neutral court. 

UNI and SIU will tipoff at 2:35 p.m. March 4 in the Scottrade Center. Before that, SIU plays Missouri State at 7 p.m. Saturday in SIU Arena. 

Evan Jones can be reached at [email protected] or at (618)536-3304

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