Daily Egyptian

SIU men’s basketball notebook: Scouting the Texas Southern Tigers

SIU+coach+Barry+Hinson+addresses+players+during+the+Salukis%27+73-63+win+over+Mount+St.+Mary+University+on+Monday%2C+Nov.+21%2C+2016%2C+at+SIU+Arena.+%28Athena+Chrysanthou+%7C+%40Chrysant1Athena%29
SIU coach Barry Hinson addresses players during the Salukis' 73-63 win over Mount St. Mary University on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

SIU coach Barry Hinson addresses players during the Salukis' 73-63 win over Mount St. Mary University on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

SIU coach Barry Hinson addresses players during the Salukis' 73-63 win over Mount St. Mary University on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

By Sean Carley

SIU’s second opponent this week has one of the most interesting stories in college basketball this season.

The Salukis will face Texas Southern, a historically black college in Houston, Texas, at 4 p.m. Saturday at SIU Arena.

“There’s several storylines here,” SIU coach Barry Hinson said. “You have Mike Davis, an extremely well-respected coach … you have possibly the best offensive rebounder we’ll see all year long. … We’re very familiar not only with this program, but how good they are.”

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TSU comes into the game with a 4-3 record as of Tuesday, with arguably the most interesting and toughest schedules in the country.

The Tigers will open their season with all 14 non-conference games on the road as part of an effort to rake in guarantee money for other schools to play them, while conversely cutting down costs of running a Division I program.

This stretch of the Tigers’ schedule is particularly brutal. Texas Southern will come to Carbondale after facing No. 16 Arizona on Wednesday. Then after taking on SIU, the Tigers will face off against, in order: No. 14 Louisville, Cincinnati, LSU, Texas Christian and No. 9 Baylor, all before Christmas.

TSU will not play a game in its home arena until Jan. 14, four games into its conference season.

Tiger coach Mike Davis spoke to ESPN’s Outside the Lines to discuss the implications of the schedule.

On the floor, the Tigers are a sound offensive team. Junior guard Zach Lofton leads Texas Southern with 20.5 points per game, which leads the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

“Lofton is going to shoot the ball every time he touches it,” Hinson said. “He’s shooting about 17, 18 shots per game. Our top shot attempter is only taking about seven.”

Senior guard Dulani Robinson and sophomore forward Derrick Griffin join Lofton in double-figures at 14.5 and 12.2 points per game.

Griffin — the reigning SWAC Player of the Year — could remind Saluki fans a lot of former SIU center Bola Olaniyan, snagging 4.7 offensive rebounds per game as an undersized — 6-foot-7 — forward/center. That offensive rebound rate is the sixth-best in the country.

But Griffin is not the lone force as a big man in the Tiger frontcourt. He is often joined by 7-foot senior center Marvin Jones, who averages 5.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

“They’ve got two Thik Bols,” Hinson said of Griffin and Jones, comparing them to SIU’s junior forward. “Griffin was recruited to be a wide receiver for [Johnny] Manziel at [Texas] A&M. The kid is a big time athlete. The greatest comparison I can give … is he’s a lot like Dennis Rodman.”

Despite these talented big men, the TSU offense oddly runs through the perimeter.

Texas Southern leads the SWAC at 25.6 3-pointers attempted per game. The perplexing part is that it only converts 29.2 percent of them, which is almost in the bottom 30 teams nationally.

However, that number may rise a bit while facing SIU’s Missouri Valley-worst 3-point defense.

The Tigers make up for their outside deficiencies by getting to the free-throw line early and often, especially Lofton, whose 47 free throw attempts also lead the SWAC.

This could cause nightmares for the Salukis, who seem to have an affinity for fouling this year, committing the second-most fouls in the Valley.

Southern’s key to success this game will likely come in the first 10 minutes of the game.

If SIU can control the tempo and play its game, it should be able to walk away with a win. If they get in foul trouble and have to start playing the way the Tigers want to, then it may be a long night.

Sports editor Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SeanMCarley.

To stay up to date with all your SIU basketball news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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