What we learned from SIU’s win over Drake

What we learned from SIU's win over Drake

By Evan Jones, @EvanJones_DE

1. A winning mentality is back in Carbondale.

For the first time since 2008, the SIU men’s basketball team secured a winning regular season record after a 81-76 victory over Drake on Sunday. This season’s team had as many wins as last season’s team (12) before 2016 began. 

In a preseason poll, SIU (16-3) was picked to finish ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Salukis’ 5-1 conference record is tied for second with Evansville and behind Wichita State, to which SIU lost 83-58 last week.

Advertisement

2. When you don’t turn the ball over, you will probably win.

The Dawgs led by 12 points at halftime and committed one turnover in the first half. Drake turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, and SIU scored 20 points from those turnovers.

SIU committed six turnovers in the second half and Drake had eight points from those turnovers. Drake only had one turnover in the second half and outscored the Salukis 45-39.

The Salukis averaged 13.7 turnovers per game going into tonight’s contest. In their three losses, they average four more turnovers per game. 

If Drake would have taken better care of the ball in the first half, this game could have had a different outcome.

3. Bola Olaniyan is a key to the SIU game plan and must avoid foul trouble.

Junior center Bola Olaniyan notched his second double-double of the season Sunday.

He had 11 points and 14 rebounds, five of which were offensive. He also committed two fouls, his lowest this season.

Without having to worry about fouling out, Olaniyan played 33 of the 40 minutes. 

He finished the first half with seven points and seven rebounds. Olaniyan was the only name seen on the play-by-play on the MVC scoreboard in the final minute of the first half.

He scored five points, two rebounds, an offensive and defensive rebound, blocked a shot and had a steal in the final 1:01 of the first half.

Olaniyan is ranked No. 2 in the MVC in rebounding with a 8.4 rebound per game average. The team is completely different without his defense and rebounding and will need him for a deep MVC tourney run.

4. SIU guards have the ability to take a game over

Lou Henson Award nominee senior guard Anthony Beane is ranked No. 2 in the MVC in points per game with 20.2. He scored 26 against Drake on Sunday.

But three other SIU guards make or break the SIU game plan.

Junior guards Mike Rodriguez, Tyler Smithpeters and Leo Vincent combined for 24 points, nine assists and four turnovers Sunday. 

Smithpeters led the Salukis with a 17-point plus/minus rating, meaning SIU scored 17 more points than the opposition when he was on the court. 

Rodriguez scored four points and dished four assists. His presence was felt early in the game when he contributed on three of the Salukis’ first five field goals.

Plus, SIU has Vincent to come off the bench and score. He had a career-high 24 points against Illinois State on Tuesday and led the Salukis to a comeback victory. 

He scored 12 points against Drake and went 6-6 from the free-throw line, including the final two to salt away the game.

5. The Dawgs need someone to come off the bench and provide a boost every night. 

In Sunday’s game, freshman forward Austin Weiher went 5-5 from the field with most of his shots coming from the corner — about 20 feet away. That mid-range jumper will be imperative to giving Vincent, Rodriguez and Beane space to get to the lane. 

Recently, Vincent has such lit a fire under the Saluki offense, that it’s no surprise when you see him finish a game with double-digit points.

Early in the season, freshman forward Armon Fletcher was coming off the bench and getting substantial playing time. Fletcher scored double digits in three of his first five games in a Saluki uniform. The team will need a 10-point scorer off the bench to continue its winning during MVC play.

The SIU men’s basketball team plays Indiana State at 7 p.m. Wednesday in SIU arena.

Evan Jones can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @EvanJones_DE

Advertisement