Daily Egyptian

What we learned from SIU’s loss at Northern Iowa

By Benjamin Tucker, @BenTucker_DE

Takeaways from SIU’s 67-58 loss to UNI.

1. Bola Olaniyan and Ibby Djimde need to stay out of foul trouble.

It was not a good day for junior center Bola Olanyian and senior center Ibby Djimde as they were in foul trouble the whole game. Djimde has been a solid substitute of Olanyian all year, but he couldn’t get the job done on Sunday.

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Southern Illinois was torched by Northern Iowa’s sophomore forward Bennett Koch, who finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Neither Olanyian or Djimde could defend Koch’s quick feet or post moves.

Saluki forwards couldn’t play their best defense because of continuing foul trouble. Olanyian fouled out for his second consecutive game, his fifth time this season. When the Salukis are facing tougher conference opponents, they cannot afford to have both the starting forward and his backup to be in foul trouble.  

2. The McLeod Center is cursed.

The McLeod Center opened in 2006 to host the Panthers’ basketball, volleyball and wrestling team. SIU has never won at the venue and own a 0-12 record. 

This would be a good time to declare this is an actual curse. The Dawgs beat the Panthers at home earlier this year and they should have won Sunday. Yes, UNI has beaten UNC, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation and Iowa State, which was ranked No. 5, but UNI is a beatable team. This is the second-worst loss of the season.  

3. The MVC is up for grabs next year.

Southern Illinois and Evansville lost Sunday leaving the second spot in the Missouri Valley Conference wide open as Wichita State leads the MVC. 

Next year is going to be a different story. Wichita State’s best players, Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet, are graduating. Once they move on from their collegiate careers, the MVC is going to be a different place. 

Northern Iowa showed they have a solid team even in a year where their overall record (12-11) has been subpar. The Salukis have four of five starters returning next year, so the conference is going to be up for anyone who is strong enough to take it. 

4. Sean O’Brien must stay aggressive.

Junior forward Sean O’Brien started off the game hot, scoring 10 points in the first half, but ended the game with just 16 points.

It looked as if O’Brien was poised to have a big game against UNI, but he kind of disappeared in the second half. Up until a few minutes left in the game, he had only scored one basket in the second half.  

The O’Brien that fans saw in the first half is the player the Salukis need every day. He was crafty and aggressive in the post. Staying aggressive near the basket will improve him from an above-average player in the MVC to one of the best, and maybe the Salukis’ most valuable playing going forward.

5. Armon Fletcher has promise.

Redshirt freshman guard Armon Fletcher has shown reasons why he is earning playing time for the Salukis. Fletcher only averages about 13 minutes per game, but has an impact on the game with limited time.

Fletcher entered the game Sunday and immediately knocked down a 3-pointer. Watching Fletcher, you can notice he has the capability to be a strong defender with his length and athleticism. Even though Fletcher didn’t play extensive minutes against Evansville, he defended senior guard D.J. Balentine with confidence and seemed engaged guarding the current top scorer in nation. Look for Fletcher to be one of the first impact player off the bench next year for the Salukis.

Benjamin Tucker can be reached at [email protected]

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