Jeff Early throws down a dunk in the first half.
Nov. 17, 2012
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois had little trouble dispatching Benedictine-Springfield on Saturday night, trouncing the first-year NAIA program, 100-62.
The Salukis (2-0) shot 65 percent from the field and reached the century mark in scoring for the first time since 2002. Five players scored in double figures, led by Jeff Early's 19-point effort. It was clearly a night to pad your stats, as every player who dressed for SIU scored at least one field goal.
"I think when your ball club shoots 65 percent from the field, you have to be doing something right," said SIU head coach Barry Hinson. "It all starts from throwing the ball inside and producing from the interior. I thought we did a better job of reversing the basketball and a better job of distributing the basketball."
Eight different players had assists in the game, and the Salukis had 22 total assists -- the most since the program recorded 26 at SEMO in 2009.
The overmatched Bulldogs (0-5) used a zone defense to keep the score close until early in the second half. SIU led by just 10 points, 46-36, before embarking on a remarkable 54-26 run. Southern made 25-of-32 field goal attempts in the final 20 minutes -- good for 78.1 percent from the field -- the second-best percentage in a half in school history.
"I heard from everybody in this region that we don't do well against a zone, so we've been practicing against a zone," Hinson said. "I thought we attacked the zone about as well as a lot of teams I've had."
Hinson said he wrote two words on the chalkboard before the game -- "Ohio Dominican." Last year, the Salukis suffered an embarrassing one-point loss in the season opener to the Division II opponent.
"A year and five days ago, we had a similar opponent in this program, and it didn't come out very good," he said. "We wanted to make sure we sent a message. When we play a non-DI, it is unacceptable for this team to get beat in our house."
SIU welcomed the return of Dantiel Daniels, a powerful sophomore forward who missed the first game of the season with a pulled groin. He scored 14 points in just 18 minutes of action and was 5-of-6 from the field.
Daniels presence in the post freed up Southern's guards, who drove to the goal almost at will. Freshman Anthony Beane, Jr. scored 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting and had a highlight reel one-hand jam that brought the crowd to its feet midway through the second half. T.J. Lindsay added 15 points, while Josh Swan chipped in 14. Both Lindsay and Swan were 5-of-7 from the field.
"I think we have some explosiveness and can score, but our guys have to figure out you have to guard first to get on the floor," Hinson said.
SIU's first-year head coach wasn't pleased with his team's defense, which allowed the visitors to convert 10-of-22 shots from 3-point range.
Still, Southern is one win away from its first three-game winning streak in more than two years and a span of 84 games. If it comes, the next victory will likely be much more difficult than tonight's challenge. Southern plays at SIUE on Tuesday night in just the fifth-ever meeting of the sister schools. The Salukis have won the previous four.
"The real games are here now," Hinson said. "I hope we are favored when we play New Orleans here, but other than that, we're going to be the underdogs in every game we play."