Daily Egyptian

Saluki men’s basketball rolls over Rockhurst 98-68 in home opener

Sophomore+guard+Aaron+Cook+keeps+the+ball+from+opponents+Saturday%2C+Nov.+4%2C+2017%2C+during+the+Salukis%27+98-63+exhibition+win+against+Rockhurst+University+at+SIU+Arena+%28Brian+Mu%C3%B1oz+%7C+%40BrianMMunoz%29
Sophomore guard Aaron Cook keeps the ball from opponents Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, during the Salukis' 98-63 exhibition win against Rockhurst University at SIU Arena (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Sophomore guard Aaron Cook keeps the ball from opponents Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, during the Salukis' 98-63 exhibition win against Rockhurst University at SIU Arena (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz

Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz

Sophomore guard Aaron Cook keeps the ball from opponents Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, during the Salukis' 98-63 exhibition win against Rockhurst University at SIU Arena (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Nathan Dodd

The SIU men’s basketball team claimed victory in Saturday’s 98-68 exhibition matchup against Rockhurst University.

Prior to the home opener, the Salukis faced adversity learning that they would be without senior forward Thik Bol and junior guard Marcus Bartley for an extended period of time due to injury.

Piecing together a starting lineup that lacked two prospective starters, SIU struggled in the opening minutes falling behind 11-2 due to eight points scored by Rockhurst junior forward Auston Rushing.

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The Hawks continued to stun the Salukis until SIU rattled off a string of three possessions that resulted in a 3-pointer.

Only down by one, junior guard Sean Lloyd threw down a dunk giving Southern a 23-22 lead and energizing the crowd.

From there, the Salukis never relinquished their lead despite a 9-0 scoring run by Rockford and took a 39-36 advantage into halftime.

Both squads posted similar numbers in the first half in terms of field goal percentage, steals, blocks and assists. The score differential was due in part to the six offensive boards that the Salukis were able to pull down, resulting in four second-chance points.

“Coach challenged us at the half to go out and play hard, get stops and take care of the ball,” Lloyd said.

The Salukis’ newest weapon, 6-foot-10-inch junior center Kavion Pippen, made his presence known in the first half. The transfer from Three Rivers Community College racked up eight points, five rebounds and two blocks in just 11 minutes of action.

“I was excited for my first Division-I game,” Pippen said. “I was very nervous so I tried to calm down and play under control. It’s a lot faster pace.”

Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz
Sophomore guard Aaron Cook advances the ball Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, during the Salukis' 98-68 exhibition win against Rockhurst University at SIU Arena (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Pippen — who finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and three blocks — was forced to step into a significant role as SIU’s primary post player following Bol’s knee surgery earlier this week.

“We took a hit in the gut on Wednesday,” head coach Barry Hinson said. “[Pippen] hadn’t played Division-I basketball at all and comes out and gets 23 points. I think it was really important for our kids to see that.”

Pippen scored seven of Southern’s nine points right out of half that extended SIU’s lead to 48-38.

Baskets from various Salukis resulted in SIU stretching its lead to 75-55 with 7:38 remaining in the game.

Dunks from Pippen and junior guard Eric McGill along with 3-pointers from junior guard Armon Fletcher and junior forward Rudy Stradnieks factored into the 20-point lead that Southern Illinois accumulated.

SIU continued to add to their lead with 11 second-chance points and 14 fast break points. The Salukis also forced Rockhurst to turn the ball over 11 times that resulted in 19 points off turnovers in the second half.

As a team, SIU committed only 11 turnovers and gathered 17 assists maximizing offensive efficiency.

“One thing we preach in practice is turnovers,” Lloyd said. “We try to limit turnovers and get as many assists as we can.”

Each player on the Salukis’ squad recorded at least three points and one rebound. Only two players went without recording an assist.

Saturday’s game marked the first game action for fifth-year senior guard Tyler Smithpeters since he fell victim to injury early last season.

“I think Tyler’s in the best condition of his life,” Hinson said. “I think he’s going to have a heck of a year.”

SIU begins their regular season on Nov. 10 at Winthrop. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Sports editor Nathan Dodd can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NathanMDodd.

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

 

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