In his mind, for a moment Tuesday night, Harrisburg native Tyler Smithpeters was back firing away in his old high school gym.
Smithpeters played 26 minutes off the bench in his SIU debut at Mizzou Arena. Some of it was because of foul trouble, as starting point guard Marcus Fillyaw drew his first personal of the game less than three minutes in, but as Smithpeters proved, some of it was because of his skill set.
The 6-foot-4, 180-pound freshman guard made 2-of-3 from the field, including 1-of-2 from the 3-point line, and added a team-high three assists to his five points and two rebounds in the Salukis’ 72-59 loss.
“It felt like the old times, really. Just getting to the basket, dishing it off, just playing basketball,” said Smithpeters, The Southern Illinoisan’s co-player of the year with Harrisburg High School teammate Capel Henshaw earlier this year.
Smithpeters’ first 3-pointer as a Saluki pulled his team within one with 8 minutes, 58 seconds to go in the first half. His second bucket was the last one of the game, a jumper with 16 seconds to play. Only fifth-year senior guard Desmar Jackson played more than Smithpeters for SIU (0-1), which got 11 players into its season opener.
“I thought what Tyler did tonight, how he let the game come to him, and he never panicked, I’ll tell you what. The little stinker played his butt off,” SIU coach Barry Hinson said. “I told him in the locker room that he’s got to get better for us, defensively. He cannot be a liability for us at one end of the court and an asset at the other, but I think the way he moved the ball tonight, and let’s go back, Fillyaw played a game here tonight and didn’t have a turnover.”
Fillyaw had one assist in 25 minutes and scored five points in his first Division I game.
The Salukis return to the court Saturday for their home opener against Saint Louis (1-0). Tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at SIU Arena.
618-351-5087 / On Twitter: @THefferman