Salukis need bench to stay hot as MVC play heats up

Salukis need bench to stay hot as MVC play heats up

By Evan Jones, @EvanJones_DE

With six different players having started for the Salukis this season, it seems a boost from the bench has been key to the success for the men’s basketball team.

This was evident in Wednesday’s game against Indiana State when senior guard Anthony Beane, the team’s leading scorer, and junior center Bola Olaniyan, the team’s leading rebounder, played for a combined four minutes in the first half. 

The Salukis held the lead after Beane and Olaniyan checked out 2:32 into the game and kept that lead most of the game against the Sycamores without two important starters.

Advertisement

MORE: Rodriguez takes on the role of quarterback for men’s basketball

One of the biggest reason’s for this is Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week junior guard Leo Vincent. He led the team with 18 points in the win against Indiana State. 

Vincent has come off the bench in all 20 games this season. Against Illinois State, Vincent led the Salukis to a come from behind victory with 24 points. He went 6-7 from behind the 3-point line.

“When you shoot the ball well and play good defense, you’re involved in the game,” Vincent said. “I just try to play confident and make plays when my number is called.” 

Vincent has the ability to come off the bench and run the Saluki offense as a true point guard along with junior guard Mike Rodriguez, something coach Barry Hinson does not take for granted.

“[Vincent] has been a huge difference maker for us,” Hinson said. 

But after the junior college transfer, the Dawgs need a couple of Saluki pups to step up. 

Six players have appeared in every game this season. Six players also average more than 20 minutes of playing time per game and eight average more than 10.

Another player who can put the ball in the basket off the bench is redshirt freshman guard Armon Fletcher, who averages 5.2 points per game in 12.4 minutes.

In high school he played center for the Edwardsville Tigers, but has since transitioned to guard and adjusted his game to fit Division I basketball.

Early this season, Fletcher was one of the first players coach Barry Hinson called off the bench.

“I’ve benefited a lot from the year,” he said. “I’m still making mistakes. But I’m confident, especially since the coaches trust me to be out there and help the team.”

Fletcher has seen his playing time cut over the last three weeks after getting consistent tick to start the season. The Northern Iowa game on Jan. 2 was first time this season he played less than 10 minutes.

Now that conference play has started, Hinson said he is keeping his younger players on shorter leashes.

“When you come in, you need to make an intimidate impact and if you don’t, then you’re coming right back out of the game,” Hinson said. “There’s not a lot of grow-up time at this point of the year.”

Earlier this season, Hinson said he wished he had a maturation microwave for his younger players. In the last two games, first-year Salukis Vincent and freshman forward Austin Weiher impressed Hinson.

Wieher has played in 18 games this season, but missed the Illinois State game because of a concussion he suffered against Wichita State.

In Sunday’s game against Drake, Weiher went 5-5 from the field, most of which were in the same spot — the left corner from 18 feet out.

“Austin matured pretty good on Sunday,” Hinson said. “The one thing about freshmen and sitting on the bench is that there’s no time for warm up. You need to hit 30 seconds on the microwave and go.”

The Salukis’ have several young players that must step up this season with the departure of Beane in the near future.

Until Hinson finds that maturation microwave he seeks, it looks like the young Salukis will have to do it the old-fashioned way — through hard work.

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

Advertisement