Daniel Kinchen is not only SIU-Edwardsville's top scorer at 18.6 points per game entering Wednesday night's game at SIU, but one of its top facilitators.
"He can play any of those positions for us in the backcourt," SIUE coach Jon Harris said. "He's obviously scored the basketball at a high clip for us, outside the Creighton game. He's not a guy that's solely a shotmaker, he can handle the ball and facilitate."
Kinchen leads the Cougars (1-4) in scoring, 3-pointers (18), 3-point attempts (46) and is second on the team in assists with 14. The 6-foot-3, 155-pound junior from Alabama Southern Community College is light, which may make it tough against SIU's Sean Lloyd. The Salukis' top defensive stopper is 6-5 and 210 pounds.
SIU (2-2) is looking for a better defensive effort, overall, in only its second home game of the season. The Salukis allowed 50 or more points in back-to-back games for the first time since December 2000 when Murray State got 50 in Saturday's 81-73 win in Murray, Kentucky.
"That's one of the things that we talked about with Aaron Cook and Sean Lloyd going in the last game and we continue to talk to all of our team about, lose yourself defensively, and all the offense will take care of itself," SIU coach Barry Hinson said. "Our defense has to get better, we're not even close to what our defensive numbers should be and that's certainly been an emphasis in practice."
SIUE has actually played a tougher schedule than the Salukis. The Cougars lost at Purdue, at home to Valparaiso, at home to Western Illinois in a nail-biter (69-67) and fell at Creighton by 37 points Saturday. Purdue (105 points) and the Bluejays both crossed the century mark, and Valparaiso got 94 in a 25-point win Hinson surely looked at closely preparing for this game.
SIUE is expected to start four guards, really, and 6-8 forward Jalen Henry. Kinchen and Henry have combined for 25 of the Cougars' 37 3-pointers, and have scored nearly 50 percent of their points. SIUE is just 37 of 119 behind the arc (31.1 percent), but Harris, like Hinson, believes his team's shooting will come around.
"This team can make 3s," Harris said. "I don't mind, obviously, going 4 for 20 the other night is not a good number, but we can do that. We can play up and down. Now, moving forward, playing more like opponents the rest of our schedule, I think we can play with a pace and a tempo, and we've done a great job the last two or three games of not turning the ball over, which was something we struggled with early."
Justin Benton, a 6-4 sophomore guard from Memphis, leads SIUE with 17 assists against five turnovers. Junior guard David McFarland has 10 assists and seven turnovers.
Cougar opponents have 90 assists and 56 turnovers.
SIU only had one turnover in the second half at Murray State, but struggled to score the last five minutes. The Salukis hope to take advantage of their size inside, namely with center Kavion Pippen, who has had at least 10 points in every game this season.
Hinson expects the Cougars to play zone early and often until the Salukis snap out of their shooting funk. SIU went 7 of 21 from the 3-point line Saturday at Murray State and 3 of 21 at 18th-ranked Louisville. Tyler Smithpeters is 3 of 12 from behind the arc, Armon Fletcher is 4 of 17, and Eric McGill is 6 of 17.
Aaron Cook, who had one of the best games of his Saluki career at Murray State, is SIU's top shooter, percentage-wise, behind the arc (5 of 12, 41.7 percent).
Scouting the SIUE Cougars (1-4)
Offense: 71.2 ppg.
Defense: 89.4 ppga.
Leading scorers: G Daniel Kinchen 18.6 ppg., F Jalen Henry 16.6 ppg., F/C Julian Torres 8.5 ppg.
Leading rebounders: F Jalen Henry 9 rpg., F Keenan Simmons 4.8 rpg.