Jan 10, 2013
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Wow - what a ballgame at Wichita State tonight. Despite the loss to the No. 23 Shockers, you could feel a sense of relief in Southern's locker room afterward and also a bit of hope that some wins may be possible in the remaining 14 league games.
1. Bizarre things seem to happen when Southern plays at Wichita State. Two years ago, SIU came to town with only seven players. The team had lost five-straight games and had just suspended three players, including two starters. Somehow, SIU pulled off a 56-53 win over the first-place Shockers, who entered the game with a 20-4 record. Last year, Wichita State beat the Salukis like a drum -- a 43-point demolition. I refuse to make predictions when it comes to games at Wichita.
2. Instead of folding tonight, Southern fed off the electricity in the building. Guys were making unbelievable shots. When Jeff Early made a no-look hook shot in the first half, you knew this was going to be Southern's night offensively. Their 47 percent field goal percentage was impressive, coming against one of the best defensive teams in the league. They were also 50 percent from three and 88 percent from the line.
3. The defensive deficiencies remain an obstacle to winning. Wichita State shot 52 percent, and in four league games, opponents are at 53 percent against SIU. Opponents are also making 46 percent from 3-point against SIU and there are too many uncontested threes. It's worth noting, though, that Southern is a better team defensively with Dantiel Daniels, who should return soon from his ankle injury.
4. It seems the game is finally slowing down for sophomore Josh Swan. A solid defender, he's had a tendency to rush his shots in his brief career. In MVC games this year, though, he's averaging 6.3 points and making 50 percent from the field. Last year, he shot just 29 percent.
6. Having said that, Jackson is no Darren Brooks when it comes to behavioral issues. Coach Hinson pointed out after the game that he almost kicked the junior guard off the team for a multitude of sins. In fact, even after Jackson scored 28 points and nearly led his team to an upset over Wichita State, Hinson said the player needs to maintain good behavior through the weekend to avoid being sent home.
7. Is Jackson a bad kid, a thug? I've observed him for about a year and I don't think so. His biggest problem, in my opinion, is not having structure in his life. Basketball comes so easy for him, but very little else in life does. I think his relationship with SIU is and will continue to be mutually beneficial. He gets the structure his life needs and Southern gets a tremendous basketball player. As long as that pattern continues, everybody wins.
8. Four games into the season and the conference race is shaping up mostly as expected, with a couple of exceptions. Most people expected Illinois State to be the second or third-best team in the MVC this year, but they are currently winless and tied for last. Missouri State was picked eighth, and the Bears are a surprising third.
9. At first glance, Missouri State's 3-1 start in MVC play is shocking, considering they did not beat a Division I opponent during non-conference play. When you take a closer look at their statistical numbers, though, you can see why they are off to such a good start. Defense. The Bears have the best field goal percentage defense (.406) in conference games and are second in points allowed (60.2). Great defense keeps you in games and helps you win a few you wouldn't win otherwise.
10. Conversely, the three teams who have yet to win a league game (Illinois State, Drake and SIU) are 8-9-10 in both field goal percentage defense and scoring defense. Funny how it correlates, isn't it? Offensively, Southern is fourth in field goal percentage, but that hasn't generated any marks in the win column.