Kendal Brown-Surles led SIU with 12 points.
Dec. 30, 2012
By Tom Weber
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Southern Illinois men's basketball head coach Barry Hinson sat down in his old chair at the Hammons Student Center gym before Sunday night's game and reflected. Four years ago he was fired from his job at Missouri State, where he coached for nine seasons. Here he was, at the scene of the crime, with a new team in a new arena.
When Hinson led his SIU squad onto the floor minutes later at JQH Arena next door, he received a loud ovation from the crowd of 7,662. Unfortunately for Southern's first-year head coach, that would be the highlight of his return to Springfield.
Missouri State spoiled Hinson's evening by beating Southern Illinois, 70-59, in the Missouri Valley Conference opener for both teams. The victory marked the first win over a Division I opponent this season for the Bears (3-10, 1-0), who play a nine-man rotation that features six freshmen.
"You know exactly how I feel right now -- how hard a loss this is, how humiliated I feel, but at the same time, it was a really, really good win for Paul, and I'm happy for Paul Lusk," said a gracious Hinson to a packed media room after the game. "Sometimes, coaching is hard and you have to pull on your big-boy pants and handle it and be a man about it, and tonight's one of those times."
The Salukis (7-5, 0-1) made a season-high eight 3-pointers, but they allowed MSU to convert 10-of-17 from outside the arc, including 5-of-5 by reserve forward Nathan Scheer. The Bears came into the game shooting just 38 percent from the field and 26 percent from 3-point. They upped those numbers to 54 and 59 percent, respectively, against SIU.
"When you put the ball in the basket, that cures a lot of ills," said Bears head coach Paul Lusk, who ironically played and coached at SIU. "(Scheer) feels like a million bucks right now."
A combination of breakdowns cost Southern the game. The team's best player, Desmar Jackson, played only six minutes in the first half due to foul trouble and watched his team fall behind, 39-32, at halftime. When he returned in the second half, Jackson rallied his team to a 44-41 lead with a pair of free throws at the 14:56 mark. In the course of the rally, however, Southern lost its only inside threat when forward Dantiel Daniels left with an ankle injury.
"We can't play a half without Desmar and a half without Dantiel," Hinson said. "We don't have anybody who can score inside when (Daniels) goes out. Golly, I wish Merlin was here. I wish we had a magician."
Jackson finished the game with just nine points and took only six shots, as he was swarmed by defenders who no longer needed to double-team Daniels inside.
"Let's not kid anybody, Dantiel Daniels is an absolute load, we can't do a whole lot with him," Lusk said. "He goes down with an injury and that helps us. Desmar Jackson is terrific. I thought we did a very good job on him, and him getting into foul trouble in the first half helped us."
There were few bright spots on offense for Southern, which was held below 60 points for the fifth time this season. Kendal Brown-Surles busted out of shooting slump by making 4-of-8 3-pointers to finish with 12 points. Freshman Jalen Pendleton had never made a 3-pointer before tonight, but he went 3-for-4.
Lusk said defense would need to be his team's "calling card" this season, and Southern may soon feel likewise.
"Sometimes we were guarding them and sometimes we weren't," said Hinson. "Scheer got off to a great start and they got their confidence."
After Daniels left the game, Southern switched to a zone defense and played a five-guard lineup for a lengthy stretch. Missouri State capitalized with a 17-2 run that effectively sealed the victory.
"The game got so small, they were playing such different lineups, and we had to make some adjustments," Lusk explained. "I thought we found some areas of their zone where we got in there and did some good things."
Dating back to last season, Southern has lost six-straight MVC games.
"The pressure was on us, and we played like it," Hinson said. "This game -- I'm glad it's over -- we needed to get it out of the way. It's been talked about a lot, a lot of pressure on my guys, and we're not mature enough to handle it and Paul's team was."
Hinson said he was gratified by the response from Missouri State fans.
"I remember the very last game I played here," he said. "I remember the police officer coming into the locker room saying, 'Barry, they won't go home. They want a curtain call.' Hammons is a pretty special place for me."
He continued, "the response that not only I, but my wife received (tonight) will forever live in my thoughts. This place was extremely good to me for nine years. I think the world of this place and I'm going to come back now. I feel like I can come back home."
An emotional Hinson concluded by saying he belongs in Carbondale now, however.
"We had our moments here, and there was some friction, but I do feel I fit better in Carbondale," he said. "I think it will be a good fit for me over the long run, and I plan on being there quite some time."