Salukis return home looking for big start to new year

2011-01-01T00:31:00Z 2011-01-01T01:01:07Z Salukis return home looking for big start to new yearBy Todd Hefferman, The Southern The Southern
January 01, 2011 12:31 am  • 

CARBONDALE - Win or lose, Southern Illinois University's men's basketball team hopes to put any memories of Saturday's New Year's Day tilt with Northern Iowa behind it quickly.

The Salukis (6-6, 0-1 Missouri Valley Conference) and Panthers (9-4, 0-1 MVC) square off at 1:07 at SIU Arena looking for their first league wins of the season. SIU fell at Drake, 69-55, while the Panthers were denied by Missouri State, 58-57, on Kyle Weems' twisting 3-pointer in the final two seconds.

Today is the first of six games in the first 15 days of the new year for SIU.

"We talk about how it's a marathon and we never put emphasis on games because that makes kids nervous, and they panic," SIU coach Chris Lowery said. "We tell them they lost one battle, and we'll have another one. When we get to full strength, we'll be ready to go to war. We can't panic and make them think we can't win without Gene (Teague)."

UNI has won five straight in the series, and may not have to worry about stopping SIU's top scorer and rebounder. Teague, who has had at least 10 points in every Saluki victory this season, missed Wednesday's MVC opener with a sprained right ankle. He will be a game-time decision against the Panthers, Lowery said Friday.

"It's a situation where we're not going to rush him back," he said. "Davante (Drinkard) was limping in warm-ups. You don't think they can play when you put them in. Then there was no limp. It's a competitive deal. We're going to see if he can go, and if not, we're going to save him."

After today, SIU plays at Bradley Tuesday night and hosts Creighton Friday. The Salukis then host Illinois State next Sunday before hitting the road for back-to-back games away from Carbondale against Missouri State and the Panthers.

Neither squad wants to start the MVC schedule 0-2, but, truth be told, one of them is guaranteed to leave the arena with that situation.

SIU's Kendal Brown-Surles, who is expected to start at point guard against UNI's Kwadzo Ahelegbe, said the Salukis have to have a short memory.

"We take it one game at a time, and whatever happens, win, loss, you gotta put it behind you and get ready for the next one," Brown-Surles said. "That's our mentality."

todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com / 618-351-5087

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