Aug. 30, 2008
By Tom Weber
WINDSOR, Canada - The 50 or so Saluki fans on-hand at the St. Denis Centre Saturday night were treated to a sneak preview of what looks to be an exciting new era for Saluki Basketball.
Although the Salukis began the game against Windsor with five returning players in the starting lineup, at the end, the top four scorers in Southern Illinois' 82-69 win were all newcomers.
Freshman guard Ryan Hare was the offensive leader, scoring 15 of his team-high 17 points in the first half. The lefthander made 6-of-8 shots from the field, including both of his 3-point attempts. Freshmen big men Nick Evans and Anthony Booker also impressed, adding 11 and 10 points, respectively, off the bench.
The game offered a glimpse of the much-anticipated revamped Saluki roster. The team returns one bona fide star in point guard Bryan Mullins. SIU has seven highly touted newcomers on the team, and two of them -- Kevin Dillard and Torres Roundtree -- did not even play. Roundtree is still rehabiliting a shoulder injury, while Dillard is expected to make his debut tomorrow.
"It was exciting to coach this team," said head coach Chris Lowery. "I'm already looking forward to seeing them again tomorrow."
After a sluggish first quarter, in which SIU trailed, 18-17, the Salukis overwhelmed the Lancers in the second period. Southern's trapping defense ignited a 13-0 run, and by the time the 10-minute period was over, SIU led 48-26. Thirteen of Windsor's 24 turnovers came in the first half.
"I liked our intensity," Lowery said. "Our younger kids came in and played with a sense of urgency. They were aggressive."
Hare did most of the second-quarter damage, scoring nine of his points and showing the ability to score from a variety of places on the floor. On one possession, he hit a 3-pointer. Then he came back with a steal and a nifty pull-up jumper in the lane.
Sophomore Justin Bocot, who sat last season, capped off the scoring run with a break-away dunk for two of his eight points.
"Justin is very similar to Jamaal Tatum in that he's a ball of energy -- he's always buzzing," Lowery said. "Sometimes, he's going to do bad stuff, but we have to coach him through those things."
Although Windsor out-scored SIU in the second half, Lowery said he was pleased with several aspects of his team's performance -- the play of the front court and the ability of the entire team to run the floor. Booker, a 6-foot-8 forward, looked smooth in the open court and finished several plays near the basket. Evans showed good hands around the basket and coverted 5-of-7 shots.
"Our big guys came in and changed the tempo," said Lowery, whose team had 10 days of practice to prepare. "The good thing about this trip is that we'll get to see them do things we didn't let them do in practice. We didn't go up and down the court much in practice."
Lowery said his team hasn't worked much on free throws and 3-point shooting, which showed as SIU made just 25 percent of its threes and 56 percent of its free throws.
"We just wanted to teach and talk," he said. "We're still learning."
The Salukis play at 11 a.m. ET against Western Ontario on Sunday.