Dawgs suffer from inconsistencies

By Tyler Dixon

It is never easy to figure out which Saluki team will show up.

The first two games of the season for SIU were losses, but they were not bad games. The team showed fight and potential that gave fans hope for the rest of the season.

The Salukis just finished a stretch of six games in 11 days. They were 1-2 in the Gulf Coast Showcase and had a tough loss against the Chicago State University Cougars on Nov. 30.

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SIU has been shooting at a high percentage from the field this season. Even in the loss to the Cougars, the team shot 56 percent from the field. However, it was the Cougars’ constant runs that hurt SIU the most.

Defense has been a key coach Barry Hinson has talked about many times. He has been very open about which players need to be better defenders if they want to see the floor.

On paper, SIU is a good team. Looking up and down the roster, they do not have size, but they have length and plenty of guards. The Salukis have a rebounding margin of 1.3 this season and are winning the turnover margin as well.

After the injury to senior forward Bronson Verhines against the Missouri University of Science and Technology, sophomore guard Jalen Pendleton was inserted into the starting lineup. Pendleton has averaged 9.3 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game since taking on his new role.

When Bronson Verhines went down, he was leading the team in rebounds per game and overall. Freshman forward Sean O’Brien has filled that void, averaging 5.3 rebounds per game.

Two players that have surprised in the last week were junior guard Mike Balogun and freshman forward Bola Olaniyan.

Balogun had a career day against Chicago State, heading into the game he was only shooting 1-of-11 from 3-point range. Balogun hit five 3-pointers and had 21 points.

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Olaniyan had a huge game in the win against Stetson University, with nine points and 11 rebounds in only 19 minutes on the court.

The center is a tough position for the Salukis. Senior center Davante Drinkard is only averaging 3.8 points per game and 2.4 rebounds per game this season. If Drinkard and Olaniyan can each get more consistent the Salukis will have a big advantage going forward.

The lone member of the Salukis that was named to the Missouri Valley Conference Preseason All-Conference Team had been playing like everyone expected him too.

Senior guard Desmar Jackson is doing everything for the Salukis. He is averaging 21 points per game and is shooting 48 percent from the floor. Jackson could be a contender for Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year if he can stay consistent.

A lot of weight was put on the shoulders of sophomore guard Anthony Beane after his performance last season. Hinson said some players struggle in their sophomore year because teams have had a chance to scout them, but Beane has been progressing this season. He was in a shooting slump to start, but has taking better shots in recent games.

SIU only has two games in the next two weeks, which will give them plenty of time to work on their progression.

The Salukis play Western Kentucky University Dec. 7, at 3:05 p.m. in SIU Arena.

The Hilltoppers are led in scoring by junior guard T.J. Price. Price is averaging 16 points per game this season and was named to the 2013 All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team last season. He was also named the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

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