Feb. 22, 2011
By Tim McCaughan
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois (12-16, 5-11) will host Missouri State (21-7, 13-3) at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday on Senior Night at SIU Arena.
It is also a "Black-Out" game, in which fans are encouraged to wear black.
Head coach Chris Lowery met with the media before Tuesday's practice.
How well do you guys have to rebound tomorrow against Missouri State, and have you made progress between Saturday and now?
"You never know until you play. Saturday was the first time we had played zone extensively like that. We obviously learned some things -- where we have to rebound at, where the ball balls go on certain shots. Missouri State is coming off a tough road loss, they are still very good. Coming off a road loss, they are still playing for a championship and we know they have to play Wichita State at the end for it. It's senior night for us and it's a big night.
Can you talk about those seniors if you would?
"Carlton is a guy that has been here for four years, and obviously I'm the closest with him. He came at a time when we were on top, he came when we had great players to learn from in Randal Falker and Matt Shaw as seniors. He seems to get it at this point, and hopefully he can transfer that to some of the younger guys."
What was your first impression of him?
"We knew he was very good, he was the Class A player of the year. He was a very big 'get' for us at the time. Our impression now is he's very versatile, he can do a lot of different things, and his ability to shoot the basketball just made him that much more of a priority for us."
"There are no distractions in his life, and he realizes he doesn't have that many more games left, and he's worked that much harder. His level of consistency every day has been tremendous. From the beginning, he has been very good."
For senior night, do you expect the players to get really hyped up for this game?
"I expect Carlton to really be emotional, because he's been a part of a senior night for us, seeing some of the other guys. He understands it's an emotional time for me too; with me spending time with kids and putting that much time and effort into getting them to this point. It's always an emotional time for our coaching staff."
Talk about Nate Mitchell, you brought him on as a walk-on; you gave him a scholarship and made him a captain. What did he bring to the team this year?
"He's going to get an engineering degree in two years. That is unbelievable for a junior college guy to come in and say I want to be an engineer. We were like ok, we'll see. Obviously, he's shown us. He doesn't have to go to summer school, he's going to graduate on time, he's been a terrific student, role model, and a great person in the locker room. He's definitely a person you're very proud to have in your program."
What did you want to show by him earning his scholarship?
"We've done this in the past when we've had good walk-ons here. Guys have earned scholarships in the past by doing a great job for us. I think if you're a good person, you come out and do what you're asked, and you come out here and work hard every day, good things will happen."
Are you encouraged by the last time you played Missouri State, it was a four-point game?
"We're encouraged because we knew we made some mistakes. We missed like five layups in the first half. That killed us. Seck was phenomenal in that game rebounding the basketball, with his energy level. Now we have to take some of that energy and put it into ways to attack them. We had so many offensive rebounds in that game, but we just didn't score."
How key will defending their frontline be tomorrow with Davante?
"When we got to the Missouri State game, we started seeing older guys taking advantage of him. The guys at Missouri State got him in foul trouble right away. He played 2-3 minutes in the first half and was in foul trouble. Hopefully now, he can settle in and just play up to the level that we expect him to."
Can you give us an update for Gene tomorrow?
"We're still going to see. We're not going to push it. He has to get healthy, and in the best shape he can. Missing practice yesterday with some of his issues."
Are you ruling him out?
"I'm not ruling anything. He's still possible to play."
Do you plan to use zone as much as you did last game?
"We expect to use it as much as we need too. When we are struggling to guard guys off the dribble, I think it's something we have to go to. For the simple fact it gives us more time. The thing is, we can't play it unless we rebound. This is a very big team. Green Bay had one big guy, one long guy, everyone else was smaller than us. We have to rebound out of this zone to make it effective."
Will keeping them off the free-throw line be a factor too?
"It's definitely a key, too. It comes from hand checking, it comes from all the small stuff that has plagued us all year. So if we have some chances, we will play zone and probably try to give them less time to get into the shot clock with a little 2-2-1 then fall back into a 2-3."
Do you expect them to come in here like a wounded animal, with the showing they had against Valparaiso this week?
"I think they know what is at stake. We want them to know that it's not going to be a cakewalk for them to just come and win the conference championship. That's our job, it's our senior night, and to make it memorable for us."
Take us down memory lane coach, what do you remember about your senior night?
"It's crazy, one of my teammates talked about it a few days ago. We had Drake on my senior night. We weren't playing very well, and got going in the final three minutes and won the game. It was emotional because we had just gone to the NCAA Tournament the year before, and we were in second place in the Valley, knowing we couldn't get to first and it was kind of a bummer for us. We played well, then we won three-straight in the conference tournament and got back. It was a memorable time for me. My whole family was here, knowing that it was all coming to an end, knowing that I would never play again in this building. That was very emotional for me, and some of the guys I came in with."
Have you been able to talk to some of the players on a personal basis since Walt talked to you guys on Friday, and their perceptions of him?
"I think they were shocked how approachable he was. He said funny things. They thought he would be very guarded, they didn't think they would have a chance to just speak with him and have a one on one with him. He signed everything they put in front of him. Most guys with that credibility and stature would be very wary of guys putting stuff on the website. These guys were having him sign shoes and shirts. That may be the only time they could meet someone like that."
Are you worried Carlton could be a little over-hyped for Senior Night tomorrow?
"In the many senior nights we've had since I've been here, only one time we've felt like that. Matt Shaw...he just completely broke down and just cried from the time he came out till the tip of the ball. It really hurt us because he wasn't emotionally ready to play, but it showed that he really loved this place and it hurt him to be playing his final game here. I have to keep it in check to let them know that it's still a game that has to be played."