Key Salukis must rise to the occasion

By Tyler Dixon

For the first time since the 1985-86 season, the SIU men’s basketball team has started 2-7.

It has been a disappointing start for players and fans of the Salukis so far this season. The team is on a three-game skid, but will look to bounce back on the road Dec. 17 against the Murray State University Racers.

After nine games, few players have shown they can handle the ball in pressure situations.

Advertisement

Sophomore guard Anthony Beane has found his rhythm from last season. He made three 3-pointers in the loss to the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky University Saturday, including a buzzer-beater to end the first half. Beane is second on the team in points with 13 points per game and his shooting percentage is up to 47 percent. He leads the team in 3-point shooting percentage at 43 percent.

Another player who has played well lately is freshman forward Bola Olaniyan. Olaniyan has played more minutes recently than starting forward, senior Davante Drinkard.

Olaniyan led the team in rebounds with six in the loss. His offensive game is growing as well. Early in the first half against WKU, Olaniyan finished a lay-up and drew the foul. Although he converted the free throw, he is only shooting 45 percent from the line this season.

The usual characters of Beane and senior guard Desmar Jackson have been showing up for the Salukis. Jackson had 15 points on 12 shots in Saturday’s loss. Coach Barry Hinson said Jackson should have had a lot more points after attempting that many shots.

Other than Beane and Jackson, certain players have stepped up this season. Sophomore guard Jalen Pendleton provided a spark Hinson was looking for at the beginning of the season and had solid production in his starts for the injured Bronson Verhines.

The Salukis had a stretch of five games in 11 days at the end of November, but only had two games on the schedule for the first two weeks of December.

Pendleton said adjusting to a schedule like this is not easy.

Advertisement

“When we have that type of long break, it’s hard for teams dealing with those types of breaks,” Pendleton said. “You’re not really playing and it’s just practice, practice, practice. We just have to use it to our advantage and just focus more, we have to prepare more for our next game.”

With as many freshmen as Hinson has, he is going to have to keep putting them into the rotation until something works.

Freshman forward Sean O’Brien had his first start Saturday, O’Brien played 24 minutes and scored five points on 2-of-6 shooting. O’Brien had his shot blocked with around two minutes which stymied the Saluki offense.

Pendleton said the team has what it takes to turn the season around.

“I feel like this team is getting closer and closer every game, just to get over that hump,” Pendleton said. “I feel like when we get over that hump, we’re going to take off.”

Tyler Dixon can be reached at

[email protected]

or 536-3311 ext. 269.

Advertisement