Dantiel Daniels scored 12 points in the second half for SIU.
Nov. 24, 2012
By Tom Weber
ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Saint Louis administered a dose of reality to unbeaten Southern Illinois on Saturday night at Chaifetz Arena, handing the Salukis a 61-51 defeat.
The Billikens (3-2) led the entire game and by as many as 17 points before a late flurry by the Salukis (3-1) in the final two minutes cut the final deficit to 10.
After winning its first three games against lesser opponents by an average of 24 points, SIU head coach Barry Hinson said his team found SLU more problematic.
"They are very unique -- their bigs play like guards, and their guards play like drivers who are more comfortable inside the arc," Hinson said.
SIU started a lineup with no player taller than 6-foot-5, but the size disadvantage didn't hurt Southern in the paint, as it won the rebound battle, 36-28. Instead, the Salukis had trouble guarding 6-foot-11 center Rob Loe and 6-foot-8 forward Cody Ellis on the perimeter. Those two combined to make 6-of-9 shots from 3-point range. Loe made all three of his tries from downtown and finished with 12 points.
"We have some major focus problems," Hinson said of his defense. "You look at what Loe and Ellis did tonight, I promise you, we had big circles around their names that they like to step out and shoot the three, and I think Loe is going to send (Saluki forward) Davante Drinkard a Christmas card."
Southern's offense was its downfall in the first half, as it shot just 24 percent from the field. The Salukis trailed, 28-17, at the half, and guard Jeff Early had 11 of his team's points. For the fourth-straight game, he finished as the team's top scorer, totaling 15 on the night.
There were bright spots for SIU in the second half. Forward Dantiel Daniels, who has been nursing a pulled groin, got untracked and scored all 12 of his points in the final 20 minutes. Southern shot 50 percent in the second half, but couldn't make a game of it, because SLU shot 55 percent in the half.
"They were switching defenses so much," said Saint Louis head coach Jim Crews. "They were playing a triangle-and-two, 2-3 zone, they were playing man-to-man, switching man-to-man. They played four different defenses against us."
The Salukis have been able to neutralize their size disadvantage this season by using superior speed in the open floor. They entered the game with 50 transition points on the season, but could only pick up six against the disciplined Billikens.
"We're small but were pesky," Hinson noted. "We're going to have to play that way."
"It's the next guy up -- the season is long," Crews said. "As much as I believe in the process, you still get a little antsy to get the process moving quicker."
The Salukis never made a serious run in the game, in part because they fell behind quickly, 15-4. Hinson said he took responsibility for the team's slow start.
"I told them part of this is on me -- the first half we were stagnant, and the second half we did some things better," he said. "The most encouraging thing is we didn't quit."