Salukis will surprise people this season

By Tyler Dixon

 

Despite an 0-2 start, the Salukis showed us they are a team to be taken seriously this season.

In its two losses, SIU has posted strong first halves but could not continue that good play into the second halves.

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Saturday’s game against St. Louis University was a tough one to swallow for the Salukis. In the first half against the Billikens, SIU shot the ball better and out-rebounded SLU 18-14. The stat that hurt them was turnovers, as they turned the ball over eight times in the first half.

When the Salukis were looking for momentum in the second half Saturday, they looked to sophomore guard Jalen Pendleton.

Pendleton played the hybrid position that coach Barry Hinson has been seeking on the court. Pendleton said the new foul rule helps him more this season.

“It helps me a lot. Last year guys could bump me and the ref wouldn’t call it, but now if they touch me I usually get to the free-throw line,” Pendleton said.

Hinson said he would probably have to not use a rotation all year because of the new foul rules. With 11 players finding time on the court in both games, 10 players logged double-digit minutes Tuesday while only six reached that mark against the Billikens.

Freshman forward Sean O’Brien was supposed to be the hybrid player for Hinson this season. O’Brien only played 12 minutes in the loss to Mizzou and four minutes against SLU.

Rebounding is going to be a concern for the Salukis this season. Their lack of size did not hurt them as much in the first half against SLU, but it did in the second. They were out rebounded in the second half 26-18 which included 11 offensive rebounds for the Billikens.

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Many of those rebounds in the second half were long rebounds that the SLU guards were able to run down.

The Salukis are going to have to get consistency from their veteran players. Sophomore guard Anthony Beane was 3-12 against Missouri and 3-9 from the field against the Billikens. Beane is still finding ways to contribute. He has 10 rebounds on the season, five behind the team leader Bronson Verhines.

Verhines is a special player. He won’t impress with athleticism, but he will impress in grit. He finds a way to get rebounds and help his team. Verhines will be a key piece in the puzzle for the Salukis this season as long as he doesn’t get ticky-tack fouls.

Senior center Davante Drinkard was almost nonexistent Saturday night. Drinkard finished with zero points and only attempted three shots. He has six rebounds and two points through two games. The Salukis are not a dominant-inside team, but Drinkard could help them immensely if he can contribute around eight points and four or five rebounds per game

One of the biggest takeaways from the loss to the Billikens was the crowd. It was electric. It is difficult to match the atmosphere in SIU Arena from the teams of the mid-2000s, but if the Salukis continue to play the way they have been playing, the crowds will come.

Tyler Dixon can be reached at

[email protected]

or 536-3311 ext. 269.

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