Dawgs need to build off signature win

By Aaron Graff, @Aarongraff_DE

SIU men’s basketball got its first signature conference win of the season Saturday, and it needed it.

The team only had two conference wins before defeating Illinois State 65-59 Saturday at SIU Arena. Those were against teams at the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference standings.

But defeating the Redbirds was no easy task. They were third in conference before the game, and SIU looked its best all season in spurts.

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It is hard to say the team is playing well this season because of the (10-16, 3-10) record, but it is because the team cannot play well all 40 minutes. Even coach Barry Hinson knows that will not happen.

The Salukis had an 18-point lead at one point in the game Saturday, and it was tied at the start of the last minute.

Obviously the only score that really matters is the one at the end, but it should not have been that close. SIU has made some games closer than they should have been though.

The Dawgs led No. 13 Northern Iowa at half. It led Indiana State for the majority of the game, and lost on a semi-miraculous three-pointer. It kept pace with Drake the whole game, and should have at least been tied through regulation. It kept pace with Loyola again on Wednesday. 

The team has not been as bad recently as it was at the beginning of conference play. The main problem is the record.

Last season, the team did not start quite as bad, but went on a four-game winning streak about the same time, which got momentum going, which led the team to one victory in the MVC tournament.

If the Salukis can improve the record in the last five regular season games, it could have a similar feel of last season. It will be tested, as four of the five games are against teams in the top half of the conference.

But maybe that is just what the Salukis need. If they can win three of the last five games, they should be taken just as seriously as anyone in the conference, and rarely anyone watching closely has said that during this season.

Granted there are keys to the game, and some issues with their play, but the only things people really care about are the wins and losses. A college team is not going to play solid basketball for 40 minutes; so all the Salukis have to do is play better for enough of those minutes to win.  

How can the team do that?

Hinson said it better than anyone, he needs a human maturation microwave, where he puts players in and they come out three years older and better.

Freshman guard Deion Lavender had a career half against the Redbirds by scoring 13, but scored 2 points in the second half. He had 14 first half points against the Ramblers, but scored 3 in the second.   

Freshman forward Jordan Caroline has games where he scores more than 10 points or grabs more 10 rebounds, but he also has games where he gets into foul trouble.

They will make a good duo in a couple of years. And that can only happen with time and built up chemistry.

For now, the team needs to deal with immaturity. The team has to not get into foul trouble. The team has to not turn the ball over. The team has to shot fake, take good shots and score more points than the other team.  

It is easier said than done. But for this year, the Dawgs will have to do that all the way through an MVC Championship to give southern Illinois fans what they want—a NCAA March Madness appearance.

Aaron Graff can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 256.

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