Airmen to face Salukis on the hardwood

Airmen to face Salukis on the hardwood

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

Americans nationwide use Veterans Day to thank those who have served in the past. Shortly after, SIU men’s basketball plays host to those who will serve in the future.

7 p.m. Friday at SIU Arena, two days after Veterans Day, SIU opens its 2015-16 regular season against future servicemen in the Air Force Academy. 

This is the Salukis’ game in the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge which started again after a two-year hiatus. The series began in 2009 and occurred yearly until 2012. 

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“Tough non-conference scheduling has always been paramount in improving our league’s stature on the national scene,” Missouri Valley Conference Commissioner Doug Elgin said. “The series helps institutions in both leagues achieve that goal.” 

The matchups for this season were based upon last year’s achievements, as well as this year’s predicted strength of teams. 

Athletic Director Tommy Bell said it is an honor to have a service academy play at the university.

“I don’t think there’s many Americans not knowing about the [service] academies,” he said. “All those men who are going to be out there playing basketball for the Air Force Academy are going to serve our nation … they have a greater call than professional basketball.” 

Attendees of the Air Force Academy are required to perform eight years of service upon graduation. Five years must be on active duty, while the final three can be on inactive reserve if they choose so. 

SIU coach Barry Hinson said a lack of game film to examine makes this game especially tough to plan for. 

“They’ll have [Monday’s] game from us, and we’ll have their first exhibition game,” he said. “Both sides will be concerned.” 

Air Force beat Colorado Christian 96-83 on Nov. 6. The Falcons led the game in its entirety — by 22 points at one time — and shot 51 percent from the floor. 

The Falcons struggled with rebounding last year, ranking 333 of 351 Division I schools, averaging 30 rebounds a game. They pulled down 50 in their first win. 

Air Force runs a base zone defense, something the Salukis saw only twice last season in their two games against Tennessee State. The Salukis won both games. 

Other matchups in the challenge this season include Illinois State playing at San Diego State at 9 p.m. Friday and Wichita State hosting UNLV at 8 p.m. Dec. 2. 

Bell said SIU will face UNLV next season in the Challenge. 

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SCarleyDE.

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