Men’s basketball: Southern looks to use experience over youth against UNI Panthers

By Adam Warfel, Sports Editor

ST. LOUIS, Missouri – Southern goes into Arch Madness with a three game win streak, winning six out of their last eight games to finish with the third seed for the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

UNI goes into St. Louis having lost their previous two games, however, they did put together a four game win streak prior to losing the final two games of the season.

“We’ve played really good here the last two and half [or] three weeks,” Ben Jacobson, University of Northern Iowa head coach, said. “[We’ve] had a great stretch of five basketball games where we were able to get out ahead of four teams.”

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SIU head coach Barry Hinson said he believes the three straight wins have helped the Salukis build confidence going into the tournament.

“We’re coming here with a three game win streak,” Hinson said. “We feel good about our team right now and how we’re playing; this is the team that we thought we had going into the season.”

Jacobson, having won four Missouri Valley Conference titles himself as UNI’s coach, said he realizes Southern is playing their best right now.

“Southern is playing better than anybody right now here in the last 10 days,” Jacobson said. “That’s part of the deal; you come down here, you’ve got to have your best.”

SIU swept the season series over UNI with neither game decided by more than eight points, the last matchup between the two teams being on Jan. 23.

“Both games were basically one or two possession games with two and a half minutes left,” Jacobson said. “Fletcher and Lloyd are playing as well as they’ve played at any point this year.”

It’s been over a month since the teams have faced off – both have changed since their last matchup.

“Both teams are different; I think if you asked me that 10 days ago, [I would have said] Northern Iowa is the best team in the league,” Hinson said. “Both [teams] have improved dramatically; the two teams that played in January aren’t the same teams who are going to play in March.”

The Salukis have six seniors on this team, three of whom normally come off the bench: guard Marcus Bartley, center Thik Bol and forward Rudy Stradnieks.

“They’ve got very good experience coming off the bench,” Jacobson said. “Good players and very experienced players, it’s not a team where if you take away one or two guys you’ve got a chance to do pretty well.”

Freshman guard AJ Green of the Panthers is looking forward to the chance to match up against the Saluki guards in juniors Aaron Cook and Eric McGill.

“It’s going to be another great opportunity for myself and all of the other guards on our team,” Green said. “[I’m] really looking forward to that matchup tomorrow night.”

Both Fletcher and Lloyd have played well over Southern’s three game win streak, averaging 41 points per game together throughout the streak.

“After the Valpo loss we all just got together and had a team meeting,” Lloyd said. “We can’t go on spring break early. We can’t play in the play-in game. [We] just all come together and give it our all.”

Southern (17-14, 10-8 MVC) tips off in the sixth game of Arch Madness and the last game on Friday against UNI (14-17, 9-9 MVC) at 8:30 p.m. at the Enterprise Center.

Sports editor Adam Warfel can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.

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