January 25, 2001
When the Salukis take on Drake's Bulldogs . . . Saturday night in the SIU Arena, both teams will be hoping to move above the .500 level as SIU will be entering the game 9-9 for the season and Drake 8-8.
The big difference between the two clubs . . . is that the Salukis at 3-4 in Missouri Valley Conference play are a notch below where they were expecting to be at this time of the season and the Bulldogs at 4-3 are a notch above where the pre-season forecasts had them headed.
As are all league games this season, this one . . . is important to both teams as it's possible they'll be battling one another for a mid-level spot in final MVC standings. Drake has been an on-and-off club this season, perhaps even more so than the Salukis, as it owns home-court wins over Illinois State and Southwest Missouri State, but lost at Wichita State where the Shockers are struggling to get out of the No. 10 spot.
The Salukis have dominated the series . . . with Drake, largely due to an overwhelming 22-3 advantage in games played in the SIU Arena. Overall SIU is up 34-19 in games played with the Bulldogs which includes a 32-18 regular-season record, 2-1 in post-season games, and a negative 10-15 mark in games played in Des Moines.
SIU's 57-54 loss at Bradley Wednesday night . . . in all probabilty will be among its most frustrating of the season when reviews are studied next March. The Salukis, up 32-18 at halftime and ahead by 17 early in the second half, allowed the host Braves to climb back into the game in the next 15 minutes. Bradley outscored SIU 28-11 over the stretch to deadlock the count at 50.
Despite the slowdown, the Salukis . . . regained the advantage twice in the final 3:16 -- at 52-50 and 54-52 -- but were unable to hang on as the Braves took advantage of 21 trips to the free throw line and outscored SIU in that category 15-3. SIU's three made free throws was by far its lowest of the season, fewer than the 11 conversions made in its first game with Bradley. In that first meeting, however, the Salukis were sent to the line 21 times as compared to the seven Wednesday night.
SIU's scoring leader Kent Williams has been . . . struggling somewhat from outside of late as he's just 9-of-34 in the Salukis' last eight games. Despite the present slump, Williams is still carrying a .419 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.
SIU's field goal shooting percentages . . . for the season are interesting. In the Salukis' first 12 games of the season, they shot below .400 only three times . . . and lost all three games. In their last six games of the season, they have shot below .400 five times and lost all four. For the year, below-.400 shooting percentages have occurred in seven of SIU's nine losses. Only games the Salukis have lost when shooting .400 or better have been to Illinois-Chicago and Ole Miss.
Another interesting statistic is SIU's shooting . . . from three-point range in its last six games. Over that span, during which the Salukis are 2-4, SIU has posted an impressive .418 percentage from outside the arc (46-of-110), but are shooting just .389 (135-of-347) overall.
Coach Bruce Weber was pleased with . . . a number of performances by his players at Bradley, particularly in the fact that they committed only 10 turnovers and continued to show overall improvement. "We're definitely a better ball club now than we were just two weeks ago," Weber said. "The important thing is that we must continue to progress every game and if we do, we still have a chance to be in the thick of things."