CARBONDALE — The old adage says, “When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.”
The SIU basketball team didn’t put its shovel down soon enough in Saturday’s 75-69 loss to Southeast Missouri State. It was the first time the Redhawks had ever defeated the Salukis at the Arena.
The Salukis turned up the first spades of dirt early, allowing the Redhawks to get out to a 9-4 lead. SIU pulled to within 14-11 with 12:30 remaining in the half on an Armon Fletcher layup.
It was at that point the Salukis put down their spade and climbed aboard a steam shovel. Over the next 10 minutes SEMO went on a 23-4 run.
Anything that could go wrong did.
Jonathan Wiley, who has been deadly on mid-range jumpers, misfired on several open looks. Eric McGill missed a layup and a pair of free throws. The Salukis missed free throws. They turned the ball over six times in that stretch. They had trouble catching basic passes.
At one point, SIU trailed, 37-15.
“We sped up offensively, just kept trying to hit home runs, 10-point shots,” said SIU coach Barry Hinson. “It goes back to what Whitey Herzog used to say all the time, when you get to the plate, just put the ball in play. Every timeout, we just kept hollering at these guys, ‘There are no 10-point shots.’
“I never thought we were going to be in trouble until it got to the 17-point mark. I’m looking at it, it’s hard to come back. It doesn’t matter. When it got to 22, it’s going to be a dogfight. It was 14 going into the half, we had a chance to get it under 10, and they made some good plays.”
In the meantime, SEMO shredded the Saluki defense, hitting 6-of-12 treys in the first half.
“I think it was just a mixture of things, but the biggest thing was our defensive mentality,” said sophomore guard Aaron Cook. “We didn’t come out and play great defense in the first half. I think in the first couple media timeouts the coaches were telling us they were shooting really high percentages. That’s what we pride ourselves on is defense. Letting them get out to a good start offensively just hurt us.”
Hinson said the team let the offensive struggles carry over to the defensive end.
“That goes back to confidence,” he said. “If you let offense determine how you do things, then that’s what happens.”
The Salukis stepped up the defense in the second half, cutting the deficit to 59-54 on Fletcher’s dunk with 5:52 left. But, predictably, SEMO countered with a Denzel Mahoney 3-pointer.
It was simply a matter of SIU not putting the shovel down soon enough in the first half.