Daily Egyptian

Scouting the Redbirds

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

SIU must fight through senior night in Normal before it celebrates its own Saturday.

Coach Barry Hinson said the Salukis’ mindset heading into Wednesday’s matchup with Illinois State, which is tied for second-place in the conference, is to ignore the distractions.

“This time of year you just got to go and play,” he said. “Everything’s difficult, weather is fluctuating, girlfriends are mad at you, you forget your mom’s birthday. I mean, you’re so clouded in your thoughts, things are just going to happen, you have to move on to the next game.”

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A win would move the Salukis into a tie for third place with the Redbirds and give SIU the head-to-head tiebreaker. A loss would cement the Dawgs into fourth place at best.

With a lot of seeding implications on the line, Redbirds coach Dan Muller foresees a hard-fought game between the two teams.

“We always expect a close game,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind it will be a tough battle since we all have something to play for.”

Wednesday will be the last game of SIU senior guard Anthony Beane’s career in his hometown of Normal.

Originally an Illinois State commit, Beane has struggled in his previous three games at Redbird Arena, averaging 12.3 points in those contests — below his career average 14.9 points per game.

“I think he presses himself a little too much,” Hinson said. “There’s nobody that puts more pressure on Anthony than himself. I’m anxious to see how he’ll respond.”

If Beane struggles, the rest of the team will need to take over, which Hinson said has not happened recently. 

In Saluki losses, juniors Tyler Smithpeters and Leo Vincent, the other shooting guards on the team, have shot a combined 24.4 percent.

“That’s not to point fingers,” Hinson said. “We all have to pick up the slack. Look at the Evansville game [Saturday], who scored well? Anthony struggled, and nobody scored well. [Junior center] Bola [Olaniyan] had a double-double, but he missed point-blank shots. Look at the Bradley game [last Wednesday], Anthony was 2-14 but the rest of the team picked up the slack, specifically [junior forward] Sean O’Brien who had 24 points.” 

When the Redbirds and Salukis faced off the first time, the Dawgs faced a 12-point deficit in the second half and Vincent sparked a comeback, scoring 14 points in the period to secure a 81-78 win.

In order to prevent the Redbirds from establishing such a lead this time around, Vincent said SIU must grab rebounds to control the pace and Illinois State’s athleticism.

The Birds’ athleticism is evidenced by their third-place ranking in the Missouri Valley Conference in steals (6.5) and second-place ranking in blocks (3.7) per game.

“They’re an athletic team, we have to keep them out of the paint and crash the glass,” he said. “If you don’t take care of that on the defensive side, then you won’t get easy shots on the offensive side.”

Hinson even said the Redbirds are the most athletic team in the conference and added that is “quite an accomplishment with Wichita State in the league.”

Three-point shooting is also a concern for SIU as the Redbirds have made the second-most 3-pointers in the conference. Their shooters will be countered by SIU’s MVC-best 3-point defense, which allows just 31.8 percent shooting.

Hinson said ISU’s 3-point danger comes from the amount of shooters it has. Illinois State has six players shooting better than 33 percent from behind the arc. SIU has just three.

Illinois State’s leading scorer, senior guard DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, missed the second half of Saturday’s game against Northern Iowa with migraine headaches, which Muller said he is still suffering from.

Hinson said he wants Akoon-Purcell to play Wednesday because he’d rather beat a team while its at full strength.

“He’ll be fine,” he said. “It’s senior night, I hope he doesn’t have the migraines. I certainly don’t want this kid to miss out on his senior night. He’s a great kid and a great player.”

Regardless of what happens tomorrow, Hinson said he will be satisfied as long as his team plays well.

“It’s not a make-or-break game,” he said. “We won 21 games, we got a winning record in the Valley, we got a great road record, we know we’re not in the play-in game, we get to play in a postseason tournament hopefully. Stick to the game plan, play well and do what we ask you to do. If it doesn’t work out, the game planning is on me.”

SIU and ISU will tipoff at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Redbird Arena.

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307.

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