Salukis winning but can improve

By Tyler Davis

As the competition ramps up, the Saluki pups have had a rough time adjusting to tougher teams.

SIU is 4-3 after last night’s win against SIU-Edwardsville and 3-3 versus Division I teams. In losses the team’s youth has been evident, but inexperience is not the most concerning issue with this squad. The team has struggled to rebound and pass the ball; two aspects crucial to winning.

Coach Barry Hinson said, in an interview with Saluki Athletics, the team’s defense has been good but the rebounding leaves much to be desired. Hinson said the goal for every game is to hold the opponent to less than 40 percent field goal shooting. While the team has held three of its Division I opponents to that mark, the Salukis lost one of those games in part because of shabby rebounding.

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SIU has been outrebounded in all three of its losses, struggling particularly on the offensive glass. The Salukis had less offensive boards in a game against Olivet Nazarene, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletic team.

Rebounding is little more than effort and physicality. Effort was the one thing Hinson guaranteed this team would bring in every night. Not wins, not points, but effort.

That may not be a problem yet, but if these poor rebounding trends continue it could become a storyline for the team.

To be fair, the team is dealing with junior center Ibby Djimde’s knee injury. The Sudan native is set to miss more than a month, and starting forward freshman Jordan Caroline has also been hobbling for the last few weeks.

But injuries are no excuse for a lack of hustle and boxing out, which is what rebounding is largely based upon.

Another concerning trait for the team is passing. The offense is predicated on inside-out passes between big men and guards, or one-on-one play from junior guard Anthony Beane or sophomore forward Sean O’Brien. That means a lot of dribbling and some cutting, but very few set offensive plays that involve the whole team.

That is part of the reason the team has averaged just 8.5 assists per game.

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Hinson says assist rates need to improve at nearly every postgame interview. SIU usually tallies one or two baskets off of assists in the first half, which is evidence of a stagnant offense and lack of sharing. The Salukis regularly do a better job in second half—probably because of some Hinson screaming and making references to his wife—but still do not make enough passes that lead to easy baskets for teammates.

The team is 1-3 when it has less than 10 assists in a game, and the lone win was against Division II Olivet Nazarene. Moreover, the team has yet to play a game where it has more assists than turnovers; another measuring stick of wins and losses.

Although these are alarming rates, there are positives to take away from the early season.

The Kent State tournament was a great experience for the raw team. The Salukis were soundly beaten two straight games. Teams have to learn how to deal with that adversity and stay positive. SIU did, as it handled the University of Illinois at Chicago pretty easily the following night.

Another good sign is there is really no direction to go but upward. The defense has been good. Beane and O’Brien have looked like a nice 1-2 punch and freshmen Caroline, K.C. Goodwin and Deion Lavender look more comfortable every game.

Rebounding is crucial though, especially in conference. The injuries are tough to deal with but those cannot be an excuse for the problems on the glass. The team will have plenty of chances to correct it with five games in the next two weeks.

There are no more Division II teams left on the schedule, however, so the Salukis should have bigger bodies to deal with.

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected], or on Twitter @TDavis_DE

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