Daily Egyptian

Column: Dawg talk with Dodd

Here are the Salukis we have been waiting for

Senior+forward+Jonathan+Wiley%2C+right%2C+pushes+through+UIS+pressure+Saturday%2C+Nov.+18%2C+2017%2C+during+the+Salukis%27+69-64+win+against+the+University+of+Illinois+Springfield+Prairie+Stars+at+SIU+Arena.+%28Brian+Mu%C3%B1oz+%7C+%40BrianMMunoz%29
Senior forward Jonathan Wiley, right, pushes through UIS pressure Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, during the Salukis' 69-64 win against the University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars at SIU Arena. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Senior forward Jonathan Wiley, right, pushes through UIS pressure Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, during the Salukis' 69-64 win against the University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars at SIU Arena. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz

Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz

Senior forward Jonathan Wiley, right, pushes through UIS pressure Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, during the Salukis' 69-64 win against the University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars at SIU Arena. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Nathan Dodd, Sports Editor

A three-game win streak for the SIU men’s’ basketball team was almost unheard of when Missouri Valley Conference play began due to injuries and a lack of confidence.

Whenever it appeared that the Salukis gained momentum from a win, they turned around and dropped the next contest.

Following the loss at Loyola on Jan. 17, Southern owned an 11-9, 3-4 MVC record and were being outscored by opponents, 486-461.

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Since the 79-65 onslaught that the Salukis suffered to the Ramblers, coach Barry Hinson’s squad rattled off three convincing wins against Northern Iowa, Indiana State and Missouri State — the preseason pick to win the Missouri Valley Conference.

The three consecutive wins jolted Southern into a three-way tie for second place with Bradley and Drake.

What makes the current run even more impressive is that Hinson is basically using a six-man rotation.

Junior forward Rudy Stradnieks, freshman forward Brendon Gooch, junior forward Austin Weiher and senior walk-on forward John Gardner barely see action, if any at all.

Using a limited lineup means that everyone who plays must produce.

While a variety of Salukis have provided valuable performances, the constant factor in SIU’s winning streak has been junior guard Armon Fletcher.

Over the last three contests, Fletcher averaged 15.7 points and six rebounds per game in his new hybrid role as a guard and forward.

Along with Fletcher, junior center Kavion Pippen stepped up his game and proved to be a constant force down low. Pippen tallied 12.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in the three-win stretch.

While I still believe that Hinson should ease Stradnieks, Weiher and Gooch into action as a set of fresh legs, none of the three have shown much success in their recent opportunities.

Now in the second half of conference play, the Salukis are playing at least four players over 30 minutes per game.

Hinson does not have the most talented options to turn to at the end of the bench, but he cannot continue to rely on two or three players to turn in high-level performances each game — even though that is what it will take for the Salukis to continue to win games.

If Hinson does continue to get those types of performances from key players, the Salukis may make a serious run in the MVC.

Picked to finish fifth in the MVC preseason polls, it appeared at one point that the Salukis would be lucky to secure that high of a finish.

Now, in the midst of their second three-game win streak of the season, the Salukis are averaging 75 points per game and playing some their best basketball of the season.

It appears that Hinson’s squad has finally overcome the adversity that has been presented to them all year.

The injuries that plagued SIU are in the past and are no longer holding back the Dawgs from focusing on the task at hand: winning.

The Salukis have a legitimate chance to claim sole possession of second place when they play Drake on Jan 30., as well as get revenge for the loss on Dec. 31 in Carbondale.

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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