Daily Egyptian

SIU men’s basketball notebook: Scouting the Sam Houston State Bearkats

SIU+coach+Barry+Hinson+reacts+during+the+Salukis%E2%80%99+74-70+win+over+Texas+Southern+on+Saturday%2C+Dec.+3%2C+2016%2C+at+SIU+Arena.+%28Jacob+Wiegand+%7C+%40jawiegandphoto%29+
SIU coach Barry Hinson reacts during the Salukis’ 74-70 win over Texas Southern on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

SIU coach Barry Hinson reacts during the Salukis’ 74-70 win over Texas Southern on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

SIU coach Barry Hinson reacts during the Salukis’ 74-70 win over Texas Southern on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Sean Carley

SIU men’s basketball will return home after a rough loss on the road to Louisville to try to repeat one of its most exciting wins from last season.

The Salukis will play the Bearkats of Sam Houston State in a 1 p.m. Saturday matinee.

Saturday’s matchup marks the conclusion of a home-and-home series started last November when SIU won an overtime game in Huntsville, Texas, by 86-81.

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Sam Houston State will come to Carbondale with a 5-3 record in a season that has gone just about as predicted. All five wins have come against opponents that are ranked higher than 175 in the NCAA’s RPI, and all three losses are against Power 5 (Georgia Tech and No. 4 Baylor) or Top-100 RPI (Ohio) teams.

Overall, Sam Houston State may be the most similar opponent SIU faces all season.

Senior forward Sean O’Brien drives toward the basket during the Salukis’ 74-70 win Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, against Texas Southern at SIU Arena. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

The matchup has all the makings for a track meet as both teams like to score, and do it in bunches.

Kenpom.com ranks SHSU as 13th-most uptempo team in the country, as indicated by its 78.2 points per game average.

But much like the reasoning for SIU’s frenetic scoring pace, the Bearkats are practically forced to rely on their athleticism because of their lack of size.

Almost seeming like a solace for having to deal with all of Louisville’s big men, SHSU’s tallest player to play this season is senior center Aurimas Majauskas at 6-foot-8.

However, with their limited size, the Bearkats still hound the glass. They lead the Southland Conference in rebounds per game, led by senior forward Torry Butler’s 7.8 per game.

On offense, SHSU is again similar to the Salukis in that their scoring is distributed well throughout the team. It’s led by sophomore guard John Dewey III and senior guard Dakarai Henderson’s 11.3 and 11.1 points per game, respectively.

The scoring runs deep in the Bearkats’ rotation with eight players averaging at least five points per game.

On defense, the biggest Bearkat downfall is even the same as the Salukis. They can’t keep themselves from fouling opponents. SHSU has committed the ninth-most fouls in Divison I with 23.9 per game.

MORE: NCAA rule changes have been problematic for fouling Salukis

With that being said, SIU’s keys to victory should be fairly straightforward. The team has to utilize its size advantage inside and make free throws.

If the Salukis can win in those two aspects, then they should be able to control the pace and move on with a victory. If not, then they could fall into SHSU’s fast-paced trap and stumble back to a .500 record on the season.

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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