Men's Basketball hosts Miami University in BracketBusters game on Saturday

    Fans are encouraged to donate a new toy to Natalie's Toy Drive for children with cancer.

    Fans are encouraged to donate a new toy to Natalie's Toy Drive for children with cancer.
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    Feb. 22, 2013

    CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois (11-16) hosts Miami University (8-16) at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday in the final game of the 11-year annual BracketBusters event. The Salukis are 7-3 all-time in BracketBusters, including 5-1 at SIU Arena.

    Game NotesGet Acrobat Reader

    The game also provides Saluki fans with an opportunity to support Natalie's Toy Drive. Anna-native Natalie Marshall, a 12-year-old cancer survivor, is once again organizing a toy drive for children at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis, where she was treated. Last year's toy drive during the Creighton basketball game collected more than 2,000 toys.

    Fans are encouraged to support this effort by donating a new toy in one of the collection bins at the entrance of SIU Arena. The toys must be new for the hospital to accept them.

    Saturday's game will also feature a reunion of Lynn Holder-era players (1946-58). Players will be introduced at halftime, and among those expected to attend are Seymour Bryson, John Goss, Dick Henley, Jack Johnson, Gordon Lambert, Jack Long, Don McGee, Bob Nickolaus, Ray Rippelmeyer, Dick Ruggles, Harvey Welch.

    Associate head coach Tom Hankins met with the media prior to Thursday's practice.

    Q: "Is Miami a physical team?"

    "They are a physical team. They are a very good offensive-rebounding team. What's interesting about them is they play two different lineups. A big lineup if they need to, or a small lineup if they need too, so we have to be ready for both."

    Q: "They have lost eight of nine games. Do you think your team has that mentality that Miami is coming after you guys?"

    "Probably so. This is probably one of the few games we have been favored the last half of the season. We just got to take care of our own business, make sure we are ready to go, and playing with high energy. Seniors only have a few games left and we have to make that they go out on a high note."

    Q: "Barry (Hinson) said that they haven't dealt well with success. Do you think they will do well with that situation this weekend?

    "That will be interesting to see. I think so. I think this team has really matured. The last three weeks they have become a lot more responsible and everybody knows their role. A lot of this comes along with us being healthy. Dantiel ( Daniels) is finally healthy. He wasn't a hundred percent for a long time and then just getting everybody else back."

    Q: "When you look at the film, what was the biggest problem for you guys in the second half against Creighton?"

    "Just their size. Their size just really bothered us. We couldn't score inside against them. We just had a hard time getting easy baskets or shots around the basket, and we couldn't get to the free throw line. When we are not nearly as big as they are inside it really causes us a lot of problems."

    Q: "How encouraged are you that you guys have played pretty good defense three games in a row?"

    "Yeah, wetweaked our defense, started switching a lot more stuff the last three games. Hopefully, we can continue to do that."

    Q: "Can you sum up how this year has been?"

    "For me personally it has been a year to learn a lot about the Missouri Valley Conference. I've always been a fan of the Missouri Valley Conference. To got to all the venues, see the different coaching styles throughout the league and then learn theadjustments you have when you're an underdog team. Having to piece together a small lineup and play small ball. Play four to five guards at a time. It's just been a great year for me to learn, but alsoexperiencea higher level of basketball than I've coached in the last couple of years."

    Q: "Have you ever dealt with everything that this team has to deal with in one year?"

    "No, I don't know very many people have had to deal with all the different issues we've had. You do those things and you learn, but like I talked about earlier, our guys have really bought in. The last two weeks have been a lot of fun just being around these guys. We fought them and they fought us, which happens when you bring a new staff into a new situation, but with injuries and people getting into trouble withsuspensionsand things like that, it has taken a longer time to come together, but I think we're finally to that point that we are starting to jell and playing together."

    Q: "Do you feel like you've spent the whole year plugging holes?"

    "Yeah, in a lot of ways when you're losing games, you're always trying to do new things. Trying to figure what you can do new. When you have a veteran team or a lot of size, then you don't haveexperiment and try new things. We've had to do a lot of new stuff and just figure out ways that are most affective."

    Q: "Despite the record, do you see this season as a success?"

    "Yeah, no question. First, from where we started to where we are now we've improved a ton. A lot of teams don't improve after Christmas. I think we've made our biggest jump from the last month of the season. I think our older guys have figured out their roles and our younger guys are learning just about college basketball, how tough it is and how much you have to work."