6 takeaways from the SIU men’s basketball weekend

Senior forward Sean O’Brien attempts a layup during SIU's 77-75 win against Air Force on Nov. 13 at SIU Arena. (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

Senior forward Sean O’Brien attempts a layup during SIU's 77-75 win against Air Force on Nov. 13 at SIU Arena. (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

By Evan Jones, @EvanJones_DE

1. Hinson has let last year go

Coach Barry Hinson had to be one of the most stressed out people in college basketball after losing five players and two coaches after last season. Five players transferred for various reasons. Tom Hankins became the head coach of Central Oklahoma and Nate Mast left to work in insurance.

And that didn’t sit well with fans after a 12-21 record. 

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But after Friday’s 77-75 win against Air Force, it’s clear Hinson isn’t fazed by what anyone says. He knows it’s a fresh season and he’s been in the industry long enough to know not to dwell on the past. 

2. He won’t take his foot off the gas pedal

It’s weird seeing no players redshirt this year because Hinson has never done that before. Last season, he mentioned how that is the best way for mid-major schools to compete. Players are more skilled at age 22 or 23 compared to 18 or 19. 

But, he filled the team vacancies properly with mostly transfers.  

He was frustrated after a 30-point win Sunday against Florida A&M because he knows the score isn’t the whole story.

His team may be 2-0, but it’s a long season and the biggest challenges are ahead of him. He needs to be, and will be, tough.  

3. Guard play is going to be important

It’s been clear senior guard Anthony Beane Jr. was going to be one of the best players on the team the last two, maybe three, years. With the addition of JUCO transfer Mike Rodriguez, the improvement of junior Tyler Smithpeters and freshman Armon Fletcher coming off a redshirt season, this unit has to lead the team.

Rodriguez is small, but he is quick and can move the ball, which the Salukis struggled with last year.

4. Sean O’Brien has improved his physicality

The junior forward from Mundelein looks tougher and more intimidating. Part of it is his slightly new hairdo, as it flows every time he gets a little wind underneath it. 

But he has a lot more ability to create a shot under the rim. They’re the type of shots fans don’t want to see taken unless the player can draw a foul, but O’Brien is making those and sometimes drawing a foul on top of it. And the crowd goes wild.

5. They’re confident

Hinson and company continue to say they are a better basketball team than last year. With so many new faces, it could be a few weeks until the Salukis hit their stride, but 2-0 obviously is a good start. 

6. Play in paint is important

In Sunday’s game, SIU outscored Florida A&M 42-18 in the paint. They outscored the Air Force Falcons 44-28 on Friday. Junior forward Bola Olaniyan has been outworking his opponents thus far, especially on the glass. He leads the team with 24 rebounds. If he can continue to perform, the Salukis might compete better in the Missouri Valley Conference than the recent years.

Evan Jones can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3333

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