Saluki Men’s Basketball renews regional rivalry with Saint Louis

By Tom Weber –

Southern Illinois resumes its regional rivalry with Saint Louis on Wednesday night with a 7 p.m. game at Chaifetz Arena that will be televised on Fox Sports Midwest. The Billikens lead the all-time series, 29-26, including a 21-12 mark at home. The Salukis, however, have won the last two meetings between the schools.

Saluki guard Sean Lloyd in the home win last year against St. Louis.

Last year in Carbondale, Southern Illinois finished the game on a 14-3 run to win, 70-55. The game marked Sean Lloyd Jr.’s first-career start and he made a clutch 3-pointer with four minutes remaining. Two years ago in St. Louis, SIU rallied from a nine-point deficit to beat Saint Louis, 65-52. Anthony Beane, led SIU with 19 points. The team committed only four turnovers and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds.

Besides the 55 games against Saint Louis, the Salukis are 10-2 against the rest of the Atlantic 10 conference. Other than the Billikens, the last time Southern played an A10 team was versus St. Bonaventure on Nov. 25, 2013 at the Gulf Coast Showcase. SBU won, 83-71, and the Salukis were led by Desmar Jackson’s 25 points.

Kavion Pippen earns second Valley Newcomer of Week award

JUCO transfer C Kavion Pippen (6-10, 240, Jr.) leads the team in scoring (13.8), field goal attempts (64), percentage (.563) and blocked shots (14). He has scored in double figures in all five games. The nephew of NBA legend Scottie Pippen was named MVC Newcomer of the Week on Nov. 12 and again on Dec. 4 after scoring a career-high 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting versus San Jose State.

Sean Lloyd Jr. with consecutive career-highs

G Sean Lloyd Jr. (6-5, 210, Jr.) posted back-to-back games with a career-high 19 points (at Murray State, vs. SIUE). He is third on the team in scoring (11.2), third in rebounding (4.2), second in assists (15) and steals (9).

Aaron Cook improved from three

G Aaron Cook (6-2, 185, So.) has made dramatic improvement in his 3-point shooting percentage this season and has already surpassed last season’s total makes. In 2016-17, he was 5-for-27 (.185). This season, he is 8-for-17 (.471).

Salukis lead MVC in blocked shots and steals

The Salukis lead the MVC in blocked shots (4.8) and steals (8.0). They are also third in 3-point field goal defense (28.6), which ranks 28th in the nation. In the last two games, Southern’s opponents are 7-for-36 (.194) from 3-point range.

Eric McGill makes instant impact

G Eric McGill (6-2, 175, Jr.) is another juco transfer making an immediate impact for Saluki Basketball. He is the top sub off the bench, averaging 7.0 points, and leads the team with eight 3-pointers and 14 steals. He’s coming off a five-steal game vs. San Jose State.

Dawg Bites

•The road game at Saint Louis will be the team’s last true road game until MVC play starts at Northern Iowa on Dec. 28.
•The Salukis have won their last two games by an average margin of 22.5
•G Marcus Bartley (6-5, 193, Jr.) was cleared to practice on Dec. 4 and is expected to play off the bench versus Saint Louis. He was diagnosed with a broken bone in his right wrist on Oct. 25.
•F Thik Bol (6-8, 202, Sr.) had knee surgery on Nov. 3 and is not expected to return until late December.
•SIU has gone 88-consecutive games with at least one 3-point field goal and 996-consecutive games with at least one free throw (dating back to 1986).
•Hinson is 44-34 overall in non-conference games at SIU
•The Saint Louis game will be G Tyler Smithpeters 100th career game.

Head Coach Barry Hinson met with the media on Tuesday afternoon.

So SLU, how nice is it to play somebody who doesn’t have as many players as you?
I think we do have about the same amount, but I think SLU has a little bit more. I think they at least get to practice 5-on-5, whereas we just got to practice 5-on-5 practice here in the last couple of days. We all know what a big game this is, it’s a regional rivalry. We always look forward to this game, and I know they always look forward to this game. I think we’ll have a great crowd. Our fans seem to follow this game fairly well. I’d expect we’ll have at least 1,000 fans there. I’ll be surprised if we don’t. Two road trips ago, they sold out the first game that we played there. That was when we had all those freshman, Jordan Caroline was a freshman. That was a sell-out for them, so we’re looking forward to it.

What is it about SLU that makes it a rivalry? Is it the proximity, that you played such good battles the last couple years…

Well I think that there’s several variables that go into a regional rivalry, but I think one obviously is regional. Two, that you have another Midwest powerhouse, mid-major level right in your backyard. You are competitors in the recruiting part. All our players, for the most part, have played against in summer basketball or high school basketball, so the rosters are really familiar to each one and the staff are really familiar because we recruit the same players. I’d say, in my opinion, this is one of the better, healthier rivalries you’re going to find, and it’s never been a heated rivalry. It’s always been a healthy rivalry. I go back to playing these guys to back at Southwest Missouri, or coached at Southwest Missouri State, so this has always been a fun game for both parts.

Do you know Travis Ford well?

I know Travis; I wouldn’t say that I know him well. I try to know Travis as much as I could because he was the head coach at my alma mater. I think the world of Travis. Every time I’ve been around him, he’s been more than pleasant. I do respect him as a coach; I think he is an outstanding coach. As a player, he was something very special. Very few guys have their jerseys retired in the rafters of the building.

You had 5 or 6 guys playing as a unit in the last 10/12/14 minutes of the game as well as anything I’ve seen in a long time here.

Yeah, I think if you wanna get right down into specifics the 3:34 mark and the 3:54 mark of the last two games, we’ve played about as good of basketball as we could to those marks. Now, if you want to start at those marks, then we’ve played about the worst, but that’s to be expected. There at the end of the game like that, you have unusual lineups, but I don’t disagree with you. I think our guys, and I want to say as a unit defensively, that’s about as well as we can play. We were really guarding our tails off.

Whitey Herzog, who I’m sure you’ve met, he used to say he was a much better manager when he had a good closer.

I can tell you I’m a lot better coach because I’ve got better players. It never fails. Players win games, coaches don’t win games. Coaches win practices. Players win games, they always have and they always will. It’s our job to prepare these guys as much as we can in a practice environment, but I have very little to do with what goes on during a game. If people want to give us credit, they can give credit to those young men out on the floor.

It seems to me that there’s more pressure on you know.

Well, I don’t know about the pressure part, nobody’s going to put more pressure on me than myself. I’m about as relaxed and comfortable as I’ve been in 36 years of coaching. I think that has a lot to do with the talent level we have on the floor. I have to give a lot to our staff. They’ve done a great job; they’ve done a great job recruiting. I think this program, I don’t think, I know, we’re headed in the right direction. We’re turning the corner. That’s what they hired us to do, and that’s what we’re doing.

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