Feb. 18, 2001
With the 2000-2001 regular season winding down, SIU's . . . Salukis are now in excellent position to grab a spot in the middle of the Missouri Valley Conference pack of 10 teams and avoid the dreaded Friday night play-in games in the league's post-season tournament in St. Louis March 3-6. Coach Bruce Weber's outfit improved its up-and-down season by winning two of three road games last week enabling it to now claim 14-12 and 8-7 records.
The key to SIU's regular season now appears to be . . . duplicating earlier wins over Wichita State (Wednesday night, 7:05) and Evansville (Saturday, 5:05 p.m.) in the Salukis' final two home games. The Salukis defeated both in their first meetings on the road this season, although neither in comfortable manner. In fact, SIU needed an overtime period to gain an 80-72 win over Wichita State and a dramatic last-second 40-foot desperation shot by Kent Williams to top the Aces, 67-65.
SIU has now won seven of its last 11 games . . . and seemingly is at its season's peak after winning at Drake and Northern Iowa last week. Both sites have proven to be difficult for the Salukis in recent years and the fact they sandwiched wins there around a loss at Illinois State has given Weber and his staff new hope for a strong finish. "We're improved," Weber said. "In fact, we're a lot better now then we were in the middle of the season and I just hope we can continue going in this direction for another two weeks. Who knows what may happen." Following the pair of home games this week, the Salukis wind up their regular season at Indiana State Monday (Feb. 26) before entering tournament competition in St. Louis.
After not having scored in the 70s in their last . . . 10 games -- except for a pair of overtime contests -- the Salukis' sudden display of sharpshooting at Northern Iowa last Saturday was a confidence builder. At least head coach Bruce Weber is hoping it may be for the remainder of the season. "It was particularly nice to see Abel (Schrader) get a hot hand," Weber said of his senior forward who was a perfect 5-for-5 from outside and had a career high of 19 points.
The Salukis used a pair of 15-point runs to . . . overcome UNI leads in their 76-65 win in the UNI Dome. SIU trailed 15-8 in the first half and 40-36 early in the second half, before going on 15-point sprees which led to 23-15 and 51-40 advantages over the Panthers.
In winning at UNI and improving their season's records . . . to 14-12 and 8-7, the Salukis shot .500 by connecting on 25-of-50 field goal attempts. It was just the sixth time this season that SIU has been at -- or above -- the .500 percentage level. What's more, it was the first time the Salukis have been there in their last 15 games.
As one might imagine, the Salukis are more . . . successful when shooting well. They've won five of the six games while posting those numbers, the only loss being to highly-regarded Ole Miss (70-66) in the pre-Christmas Hawaii tournament. Other .500-plus games -- and victories -- have been against Long Beach State, Murray State, BYU-Hawaii and St. Mary's College.
Actually SIU has put up good numbers even when . . . the Salukis are shooting .400 or better. Weber's club is 7-2 at that level which means it is 12-3 overall when .400 or better. It's the next category which has proven costly as SIU has lost nine of the 11 games when under .400. The only exceptions when the Salukis have been able to produce victories when shooting under .400 were wins over Wichita State (in OT) and in the SIU Arena over Southwest Missouri State.
Last season the Salukis set a new SIU record when . . . eight players scored 200 or more points. That number will probably be down to five this year, but nine players have already scored 100 or more.
SIU's scoring leader Kent Williams has already . . . topped his freshman year total of 440 points as he did so with an outburst of 29 at Northern Iowa last Saturday. The Mt. Vernon (Ill.) sophomore now has 463 for the season and a career total of 903. As a result of his three-game, 74-point flurry last week which included a pair of 29-point contests, Williams has moved into SIU's all-time top 40 career scoring leaders and passed another two-year performer -- Walt Frazier (884) -- in so doing.
Williams has scored at every stop in the 20s in . . . topping the 900-point mark and interestingly has been more productive on the road than at home. Only 5 of his 16 games in the 20s have been in the SIU Arena.