CARBONDALE — It didn’t take long to figure out Southern Illinois University’s strategy against its sister school Wednesday night.
From the first possession of the game, the Salukis pounded the ball inside to Kavion Pippen and Jonathan Wiley. The forward duo responded in a big way, combining for 25 points and 23 rebounds. Each registered a double-double in the Salukis’ 86-59 win.
“It was a priority,” said SIU coach Barry Hinson. “It was a huge priority going into this game. We’ve got to feed the big fella. We have to feed him. It’s not like SIUE doesn’t have size. They have size down there.
“They’ve doubled the bigs in the majority of games they’ve played. They didn’t double him tonight. We had him so scared about the big-big double coming, I think that’s why he missed his first 3-4 shots. He kept looking over his shoulder thinking the double was coming.”
Despite Pippen missing some shots early, he had a double-double by the end of the first half. He finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and two blocked shots. Wiley scored 12 points and had 10 boards.
“We did a good job of throwing the ball inside tonight,” Hinson said. “Both big guys get double-doubles. That’s pretty impressive. That helps us a ton, especially when Jonathan was so efficient, scoring 12 on just seven shots.”
“All week we worked on getting KP the ball, no matter what happened,” Wiley said. “He’s a force down there. Anything he does down there is going to be good.
“Once KP gets going, it makes everything easy because he starts getting doubled. They start digging on him so everyone just cuts and spots up. We started knocking down shots.”
The inside-out approach allowed the Salukis get off to a quick start. SIU’s first 12 points came from the paint, on a couple post-ups by Pippen and drives by Wiley, Aaron Cook, Armon Fletcher and Sean Lloyd.
Forty-four of the Salukis' 86 points came in the paint.
Then, when SIUE began collapsing the middle, the Salukis found wide open shooters on the perimeter.
“Isn’t that amazing how it works?” Hinson said.
As the result of wide open looks, the Salukis knocked down 8-of-15 shots from the arc. Cook made his only 3-point attempt while Lloyd and Fletcher were both 2-of-3.
The Salukis finished with 20 assists on 31 buckets. The assist total should have been higher except for the early misses Hinson noted.
“It was a big point of emphasis,” Fletcher said. “In practice, coach Hinson emphasized the guards running down the floor to our spots in transition and moving the ball early, getting it inside and moving out. It worked out well. We have to continue to do that each game.”
The Salukis are home Saturday at 3 p.m. against San Jose State.