CARBONDALE — Jonathan Wiley didn't think twice about shooting when he got the basketball along the baseline on SIU's first possession on Saturday against San Jose State.
The 6-foot-7, 201-pound hybrid forward squared up and fired from about 12 feet. More of a face-up forward than a back-to-the-basket bruiser, Wiley loves the straight-on baseline jumper. It's an easy two points, and typically pulls his defender in, where he can try to drive around him.
"I like to think that that's my shot," Wiley said after scoring 10 points in SIU's 76-58 win over the Spartans. "I shoot that shot a bunch in practice. I'm pretty efficient at it, so when I get the chance to take it, I like to go ahead."
Wiley made 5 of 7 from the field in another 23 efficient minutes. His three rebounds gave him 40 for the season (an average of 6.7 per game), tied with starting center Kavion Pippen for the team lead. Wiley is not the passer former hybrid Sean O'Brien was, but gives the Salukis a bit more versatility at the forward spot. He can guard multiple positions on the perimeter, most power forwards, and has helped a depleted Saluki frontcourt stay afloat without starting forward Thik Bol.
Bol, out since the beginning of the season after undergoing knee surgery, is expected back later this month.
"Jonathan Wiley is about as plain as the back sheet of this paper, and that's why I love him," SIU coach Barry Hinson said after Saturday's game, holding up the stat sheet. "It's amazing. You see what his stats were again tonight? Five of seven. He's not gonna take bad shots. He's gonna guard his tail off. He's gonna defend. He's gonna rebound. He's starting to be a little bit of glue."
Mainly a bench player last season, Wiley moved into one of the most important positions in SIU's offense in the offseason, after four-year player O'Brien graduated. He was the team's top scorer at its closed scrimmage at Oklahoma State, and broke into double figures for the first time in his Saluki career against SIU-Edwardsville, with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Wiley grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds in the win over the Cougars, three of them at the offensive end. He is a big part of a renewed emphasis at the defensive end for the Salukis (4-2), who take on Saint Louis (3-4) at Chaifetz Arena tonight at 7 p.m. SIU held the Cougars to 29.3 percent shooting and San Jose State to 40 percent.
"We were a lot tougher than they were. I think that helped a lot, just, everybody being aggressive toward everything they did," Wiley said. "Closing out, yelling when they shoot, all of that matters when you're trying to get stops, when you're trying to get deflections, when you're trying to get steals."
SIU has won its last two against the rebuilding Billikens, who were down to seven scholarship players in a 30-point loss at Butler. Saint Louis is expected to get starting forward Hasahn French (7.8 points, 7.5 rebounds a game) back after an ankle injury took him out of the Butler game. SIU is expected to get point guard Marcus Bartley, who transferred from Saint Louis in 2016, back for the first time tonight after he broke a bone in his right wrist in October.