SIU Men's Basketball Heads to Bradley

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    January 23, 2001

    When SIU takes on high-flying Bradley . . . Wednesday night in Peoria (the Carver Arena, 11,300), it'll be just 363 days after they met for the first time last season. SIU had already played 17 games, just as it has this year and owned 9-8, 3-3 records, same as this year. Coach Bruce Weber's club was able to win that encounter at home and tacked on two more to improve their season's mark to 12-8 before losing for the ninth time at Northern Iowa.

    The big difference in the scenario . . . is that Wednesday night's game is on Bradley's home court and the Salukis haven't been particularly successful there in recent years. In fact, SIU has lost six of its last seven games at Carver, its only win being in a 1996 game when Troy Hudson celebrated New Year's Eve early by scoring 26 points.

    A more realistic approach . . . might be to recall the meeting between the two teams just 14 days ago in Carbondale. The Braves were clearly the winner, 76-65, that night after out-shooting the Salukis .460 to .381 from the floor and riding Jerome Robinson's hot hand (he was 6-of-11) from outside.

    The Salukis countered by having . . . five players in double figures, although three were barely there with 10, and out-rebounding the Braves by one. What could be a major difference in this meeting, however, is that Weber is receiving far more help off the bench than 14 days ago. SIU reserves scored just six that night. Last Saturday night in their upset win over Indiana State (68-65), the SIU bench contributed 28, 41 percent of the total.

    Jermaine Dearman, who gave up his starter's . . . position to freshman Sylvester Willis two games ago, may have something in coming off the bench. The only games Dearman has not started this season was against Murray State, Wichita State and Indiana State. The sophomore from Indianapolis, Ind., scored 22, 16 and now 14, respectively, in those three games in addition to grabbing 13 rebounds against the MVC co-leading Sycamores. The fact that he was the last-second hero with a buzzer-beating 24-footer to win the game adds to the strange happenings even more.

    Although Dearman was the center of attention . . . as he did somewhat of a "victory lap" around the SIU Arena following the game-winning shot which broke a 65-65 deadlock, he was forced to share some of the honors with parttime starter Marcus Belcher who improved his career scoring best at SIU from 8 to 18. Playing 22 minutes while filling in for the slowed Brandon Mells, Belcher hit 6-of-6 field goal attempts including 5-of-5 from outside the arc. Only a 1-for-3 at the free throw line prevented him from getting 20. His 18 points were one more than he scored in the previous seven games and the same number he scored in the seven previous to that.

    SIU's scoring leader Kent Williams has been . . . struggling somewhat from outside of late as he's just 7-of-29 in the Salukis' last seven games. Despite the present slump, Williams is still carrying a .420 percentage. He seemingly has traded off his outside marksmanship for near perfection at the free throw line where he now has hit 18 in a row and 47 of his last 52. He now has a .808 mark for the season at the line. That lofty figures is only second best on SIU's team, however, as teammate Tyrese Buie owns a .875 percentage on 28-of-32.

    The Salukis outrebounded Indiana State . . . by six (34-28) largely due to Dearman's career high of 13 boards. He has now taken over the team leadership from Joshua Cross, 114 (6.7) to 112 (6.6).