Daily Egyptian

Salukis hoping to salvage season

By Tyler Davis @TDavis_DE, Daily Egyptian

Right before the Salukis started Missouri Valley Conference play, the team dropped two winnable games at home and was looking for a win against coach Barry Hinson’s former team, the Missouri State Bears.

SIU not only lost against the Bears to begin MVC play, but the next three conference games after.

The team is in the midst of a six-game losing streak—its longest since Hinson’s first season at the helm.

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What started as a promising year from a talented young squad that reeled off six wins in seven games, has turned into a lost season where Hinson is probably just hoping his team can finish near .500.

The shooting will have to improve dramatically for any shot of a salvaged season.

In three games against Missouri State, Bradley and Northern Iowa, the team shot 33 percent, 33 percent and 29 percent from the field respectively. It has yet to shoot better than 40 percent from the field in a conference contest.

Junior guard Anthony Beane, who was a preseason candidate for MVC Player of the Year, has hit a scoring slump including two conference games where he failed to top 10 points.

The lack of scoring, mixed with a poor defensive game against Murray State, has not helped the team during its four straight home losses; the longest home losing streak since 2011.

Indeed, the competitive season the young team was poised for has not come to fruition and the success the team experienced against lesser competition has been much harder to find against mid-major Division I teams.

The trouble is there may not be much of an option for this team besides shooting better.

Either that, or just let Beane chuck up 30 shots a night and hope he catches fire. No one else on the team has been able to score consistently on this team besides freshman forward Jordan Caroline, and periodically sophomore forward Sean O’Brien.

Beane has taken shots nearly 15 times per game for nearly a season and a half—but if he does not make more than half of those field goals, getting enough points to win is a struggle.

To make matters worse, the defense has not maintained its great play against steeper competition. Hinson lives by the 40 percent field goal threshold. As he has said many times, if the Salukis can hold opponents to a 39 percent or worse field goal rate, they will be in a position to win most games.

The team has not hit Hinson’s mark in nearly a month; the last time a team shot worse than 40 percent against SIU was Dec. 14, 2014 against lowly Chicago State. Hinson knows a team with offensive struggles like his needs to play shut-down defense every game.

The normally boisterous Hinson said he was crushed and speechless after the team’s latest loss to Indiana State. He said the team had practiced well and seemed prepared to face a tested Sycamore team.

For about 37 minutes, the Salukis did seem prepared, holding the Sycamores to 30 percent shooting in the first half. But the Saluki defense failed the team down the stretch, allowing ISU junior guard Devonte Brown, a 28 percent three-point shooter, to knock three long-range jumpers in the closing minutes.

The deflating home loss against a rival like Indiana State seems analogous to the Salukis’ season. They had a fast start to the year, as they did in the game against the Sycamores.

This is where the similarities become problematic. Near the season’s midpoint, SIU is playing its worst basketball during vital conference games. And as fans saw against the Sycamores, when the game was on the line, the Salukis couldn’t pull off the win.

It seems this team does not have much of a chance to improve. The players seem to be playing hard, chasing down lose balls and competing on the glass, but even in a sub-par MVC, that is not enough to win games.

The team needs more scoring—one thing that most people thought would come easy to a squad with so many highly touted freshmen.

But no one has asserted himself as a threat on offense aside from Beane and Caroline. And most of the forwards’ points come from hustle plays and put back points. When the Salukis get into a halfcourt set, they look nervous, frazzled and inept.

These things will need to improve, and fast; the Salukis travel to Kansas tomorrow to face the No. 13 Wichita State Shockers. While SIU’s chances seem slim, fans who have watched the last few years know this team seems to play up to big time competition.

However, it will take a herculean effort to topple the Shockers. If the Salukis do, they may have enough wind in their sails to get their conference record back near .500 before the end of the year.

If the team does not, the following game is against a 12-4 Loyola team in the midst of one of its best seasons in recent history.

Hinson needs more time as the leader of the team, so any call to fire the coach is done with haste and nearsightedness.

After all, this is really the first season with his team of players he recruited. But if this MVC losing streak continues to five, six or more games, and the team does not win at home soon, some difficult questions may have to be asked about the fiery coach’s future in Carbondale.

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected]

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