Daily Egyptian

Column: Dawg talk with Dodd

Pippen pepping his game up

Junior+center+Kavion+Pippen+goes+for+a+basket+past+Valparaiso+guard+Max+Joseph+Saturday%2C+Feb.+3%2C+2018%2C+during+the+Salukis%27+65-59+win+against+the+Valparaiso+Crusaders+at+SIU+Arena.+%28Reagan+Gavin+%7C+%40RGavin_DE%29
Junior center Kavion Pippen goes for a basket past Valparaiso guard Max Joseph Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, during the Salukis' 65-59 win against the Valparaiso Crusaders at SIU Arena. (Reagan Gavin | @RGavin_DE)

Junior center Kavion Pippen goes for a basket past Valparaiso guard Max Joseph Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, during the Salukis' 65-59 win against the Valparaiso Crusaders at SIU Arena. (Reagan Gavin | @RGavin_DE)

Reagan Gavin

Reagan Gavin

Junior center Kavion Pippen goes for a basket past Valparaiso guard Max Joseph Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, during the Salukis' 65-59 win against the Valparaiso Crusaders at SIU Arena. (Reagan Gavin | @RGavin_DE)

By Nathan Dodd, Sports Editor

On Monday, the Missouri Valley Conference named junior center Kavion Pippen the MVC Newcomer of the Week. This marked the third time this season that Pippen received the honor.

In the Salukis’ current five-game win streak, Pippen has been the cornerstone of the SIU formula for victory.

Unless you consider Bola Olanyinan a true center, which I do not, Pippen may be the most consistent center that the Salukis have featured since Gene Teague transferred to Seton Hall after his sophomore season in 2011.

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In the 2010-11 season, Teague posted a line of 8.6 points and 5.3 rebound per game — both totals that Pippen is on pace to surpass this season.

Despite a hot start to the season, Pippen hit a bit of a lull as Missouri Valley Conference play rolled around.

In the first seven games of the MVC schedule — Pippen’s first run in Division I conference play —he posted a line of 10.9 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game.

Leading up to the MVC schedule, he averaged 12.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Although he never necessarily played badly, in the game at Valparaiso Pippen only recorded one rebound. Also, in three of the first seven MVC matchups, Pippen failed to reach double digits in scoring.

Like I said, as a whole, Pippen did not play poorly. However, he was not always a dependable force in the SIU gameplan.

Now in the midst of a five-game win streak, Pippen has racked up 14.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

During that run, there has only been one contest in which the transfer from Three Rivers College failed to reach double digits in scoring.

Against Northern Iowa on Jan. 21, Pippen posted his first double-double since Nov. 29. His 11 points and 11 rebounds led the Salukis to their first of five consecutive wins.

MVC opponents clearly made the adjustment on how to guard Pippen once conference play got going. Now it seems as if Pippen has readjusted to the conference and reestablished his dominance.

In the most recent win against Valparaiso, he accumulated 21 points and six rebounds — the third game in a row that Pippen racked up double-digit point totals.

While forced to play a majority of the minutes at center due to senior Thik Bol’s injury, Pippen has stepped up and provided more than what head coach Barry Hinson could have ever expected.

Bol was meant to be Southern’s starting center with Pippen gathering minutes off the bench so that he could step into the starting lineup next season.

Even with only one year of eligibility remaining, Pippen looks likes Southern’s center of the future.

If Bol returns to SIU next season following his medical redshirt, Hinson will have to find a way to provide significant minutes to Pippen and feature him on offense in the Saluki lineup.

Still, SIU is in second place in the MVC and the goal of this year’s squad is to win the conference and the MVC tournament in St. Louis come March.

Although the Salukis have recently received strong performances from junior guard Armon Fletcher, sophomore guard Aaron Cook and junior guard Marcus Bartley, the deciding factor in games has been whether Pippen is having a good night.

For the Salukis to climb the ranks of the MVC they must continue to rely on Pippen as they have done recently.

As the old saying goes, “feed the big man.”

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

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