Aces trump Salukis for series sweep

Aces trump Salukis for series sweep

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

It was a warm 74-degree February afternoon in Evansville, Ind., at tip-off, but the Salukis played much colder.

Evansville (22-7, 11-5 Missouri Valley Conference) wholly outperformed SIU men’s basketball (21-8, 10-6 MVC) in its 83-71 victory Saturday afternoon.

“They beat us in every aspect,” coach Barry Hinson said. “The only reason we outrebounded them was because we shot so poorly. They were energetic, they were more prepared, they stuck to their gameplan. I think they did everything better than we did.”

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MORE: What we learned from SIU’s loss to Evansville | Photos from SIU-UE

The Salukis had their third-worst offensive output of the season, shooting 36.8 percent (25-68).

Despite the poor shooting, senior guard Anthony Beane became the third-leading scorer all-time in SIU history, scoring 22 points in the game. 

There was hope in the second half for the Salukis, who were only down by nine at halftime. That hope was almost entirely stomped out by the Aces 7-2 run in the first four minutes of the second half.

“We were shell-shocked,” Hinson said. “I was upset with how we started the second half, especially after I challenged them at halftime.”

The Dawgs didn’t do themselves any favors, missing several early layups and other close buckets. By Hinson’s count, there were 11 missed layups in the first half. Even Aces coach Marty Simmons was shocked by the point-blank misses.

“[SIU] missed some shots they’re going to make,” he said. “They missed a lot of shots at the rim they usually make.”

Limited success inside prompted the Dawgs to attempt quick outside jumpers to try to counter Evansville’s potent offensive attack. Saluki guards shot a combined 32.5 percent in the game and 29.4 percent from long distance.

“They said we’re going to make your guards beat us today,” Hinson said. “They got sped up today and they made really bad decisions. Give them credit, they caused it.”

Saluki junior center Bola Olaniyan said that there wasn’t anything Evansville did to force the inside misses, just poor execution.

“I don’t think they did anything,” he said. “We just panicked, it happens in basketball sometimes. We’ll watch film tomorrow and see what mistakes we made.”

Olaniyan finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season.

SIU dug itself a hole early, allowing the Aces to convert nine of their first 11 shots, resulting in a 10-point deficit. In that same time period, SIU was 5-15 from the floor.

Overall, the Aces shot 54.5 percent (30-55) from the floor, the third-worst defensive showing by SIU this year.

“I really believe I could have gone out there and scored double-figures on us today,” Hinson said.

Evansville’s Lute Olson Award candidate, senior guard D.J. Balentine, put on a show for the Aces fans, scoring 25 points on 16 shots.

He outscored Beane in the last regular-season matchup of their careers.

“Going against him the last few years has been good,” Balentine said. “He’s a great competitor and it’s been fun playing against him. I’m sure if we meet up in St. Louis [at the MVC tournament] it’ll be another good game.”

Balentine was helped with big-time contributions from senior center Egidijus Mockevicius and junior guard Jaylon Brown.

Mockevicius scored 11 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his NCAA-leading 24th double-double for the year. Even with a double-double, Simmons said he needs to be used better.

“We didn’t do a good job getting him the ball to be honest,” Simmons said. “We have to do a better job of seeing him in the corner … as a team we need to work on getting him the ball.

Brown added 19 points, four of which came on two massive dunks that killed Saluki momentum.

“We need those energy plays in a game and he’s done that all year,” Simmons said.

With its win, coupled with Illinois State’s loss to Northern Iowa, Evansville is now tied with the Redbirds for second in the MVC. SIU sits in fourth and will face Illinois State at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Normal.

“If we don’t learn from this, then we’re going to have a really bad close to the end of our season,” Hinson said.

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

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