Daily Egyptian

What we learned from SIU’s loss to Evansville

By Benjamin Tucker, @BenTucker_DE

1. Southern Illinois and Evansville are clearly the second and third-best teams in the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Salukis and Purple Aces proved they are the clear No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the MVC. 

Everyone in SIU Arena thought the game was going to be a win for the Salukis. That is, until senior guard D.J. Balentine proved why he is the top scorer in the MVC and sunk a 3-pointer with only one second left to tie the game and send it to overtime. Balentine was a tough guard for the Salukis, scoring 25 points.

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The Salukis could have won this game, but right as SIU would start to pull away, there would be another push by the Purple Aces to keep the game close. This was a game full of momentum changes and now the two teams are tied for second in the MVC behind Wichita State. Evansville owns the tie-breaker over Southern because of its 85-77 win.

2. Mike Rodriguez must get used to playing Division-I basketball.

Junior guard Mike Rodriguez has been a solid point guard all year for the Salukis, but he still shows signs of someone one year removed from junior college. Getting over the hump hasn’t been easy and it will take some time before his struggles stop. Rodriguez ended the game with only one turnover, but he also had just four points.

Rodriguez is probably the best Saluki at getting to the basket, but finishing is always a question for the undersized guard. When driving to the basket, Rodriguez is out of control, and sometimes looks as if he’s expecting to draw contact and a foul.

When going to the basket, Rodriguez needs to be strong with the ball. If he is attacking and not expecting contact, the refs are going to call the foul. He also needs to add a jump stop into his game. When driving to the lane, instead of looking for contact, if he were to jump stop, he could end up with a high percentage, short range jump shot and maybe even force some fouls.

3. Bola Olaniyan must work on scoring from 10 to 15 feet away from the basket.

Anyone following the MVC knows Saluki junior center Bola Olaniyan can score in the paint. But what does Olaniyan do with the ball when he isn’t in the paint? Here’s a hint: Usually nothing good.

There was a possession in which Olanyian got the ball at the free throw-line with the shot clock was winding down and he took one dribble in then threw up a sloppy shot. In the future, coach Barry Hinson should try to work with Olanyian on this issue.

Having Olanyian prepared to have the ball within 10 to 15 feet of the basket could help the Salukis’ offense when they go stagnant. If Olaniyan can develop a decent jump shot mixed in with his strength and post moves, he can average at least 12 points a game next year.

4.  Tyler Smithpeters must shoot more threes.

The Salukis can be a streaky team on offense, which is good when the shots are falling. At times, the offense can struggle to score, and the team loses momentum. Junior guard Smithpeters, leads the MVC with a .493 3-point shooting percentage, and SIU needs to look his way more to prevent scoring droughts.

When Smithpeters is hot from outside, this opens up for more opportunities for the other Salukis to score. The defense has to respect him as a shooter, so opponents are going to tighten up, spacing the floor for senior guard Anthony Beane and Olaniyan. If he can develop into a third or fourth option on a nightly basis, it will add another dimension to the Dawgs’ offense. 

5. Leo Vincent must stay consistent.

The Salukis were only up by three points after the first half Thursday night. The game looked like it could have been blown right open, but one Saluki was not in the box score — junior guard Leo Vincent.

In the past four games, Vincent averaged 15.5 points per game. This is the type of bench player the Salukis need to win tough games. For games against better opponents such as Evansville, Wichita State, and Illinois State, the Salukis need more scoring options than just Beane.

Vincent came alive in the second quarter and the offense was clicking. With only seconds remaining, he hit a 3-pointer to put the Salukis ahead. The Vincent that makes it rain from long range and finishes at the rim is the one the Salukis need every game. It can also make life easier for Beane and give the team a solid 1-2 punch down the stretch.

We’ll see if he shows up 3 p.m. Sunday against Northern Iowa.

Benjamin Tucker can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @BenTucker_DE 

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