SIU men’s basketball back in friendly confines

By Gus Bode

Salukis return home after three-game road swing

It took 40 minutes and an extra session for the SIU men’s basketball team to dispatch of Northern Iowa back on Jan. 22 when the two teams first faced off at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

The Panthers rallied near the end of the first half to go into the locker room with a 36-32 lead and were up until SIU guard Kent Williams hit a pair of free throws to send the game into overtime. SIU then dominated, outscoring the Panthers 17-7 during the final five minutes.


The Salukis know if they can get Northern Iowa (7-13, 4-8 Missouri Valley Conference) down, they have to take advantage of it and not let the Panthers hang around.

“We’ve got to figure out how to put them away,” Williams said. “Last time we had them down and then we let them get right back in the game before half when we could have put it out of reach.”

Northern Iowa has struggled this season, but it has won two of its last three games and took No. 12 Creighton down to the final minutes before falling by nine points.

In their most recent win, 80-72 over Wichita State, junior forward Matt Schneiderman played the game of his career as he scored 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. On the season, Schneiderman is averaging 13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and is shooting .409 percent from behind the three-point line. All three numbers are second best on the Panthers.

Other players the Salukis will have to contain include 6-foot-6 center David Gruber, who always plays well against SIU, and guards Ben Jacobson and Chris Foster.

Foster did not play in the previous game between the two teams and his presence should help the Panthers as he has averaged just under nine points and five assists a game.

The Salukis will have to do a better job of playing interior defense as teams have been feasting in the paint against SIU as of late.


Though undersized, the Panthers frontcourt of Gruber, Schneiderman and Jacobson lit up SIU for a combined 47 points and 18 rebounds in their earlier meeting.

SIU head coach Bruce Weber knows his team needs to play better defense to keep Northern Iowa at bay, particularly in the paint where opponents have been feasting lately.

“We’ve just got to do a good job defensively right from the get-go and then hopefully not hurt ourselves offensively,” Weber said.

Weber said his team sometimes comes out with the mentality that they are going to slaughter teams at home and therefore take quick shots and not let the game develop at the pace the Salukis want it to.

He said one advantage SIU has to take advantage of is their superior depth.

“Just slowly wear them down and use our depth because they have a little bit of a depth problem because of injuries and a variety of things that have happened with them,” Weber said.

The latest injury victim is sophomore forward Matt Bennett, who is lost for the next four-to-six months with a strained Achilles tendon.

SIU will be struggling with some injuries of their own as starting forward Jermaine Dearman rolled his ankle Tuesday at practice when he landed on a basketball after going up for a rebound.

Dearman practiced Wednesday, but was visibly limping and might not be at 100 percent for the game.

Despite Northern Iowa sitting in seventh place in the MVC, the Salukis know if they want to take the conference title, this game is one they cannot let get away.

SIU is tied with Creighton atop the conference standing at 11-1, but Southwest Missouri State is close behind with a 9-2 league mark. The Salukis still have games against both Creighton (March 1) and SMS (Feb. 19).

Dearman said if the Salukis drop this game, the ones against the Bluejays and the Bears will mean little.

“Every game in the Valley from now on is big,” Dearman said. “We’re still trying to compete in that race with Creighton for first so we’re just taking it one game at a time and this is our next challenge.”

Reporter Jens Deju can be reached at [email protected]