NAPLES, Fla. — SIU’s identity crisis is a bit more pressing than St. Bonaventure’s tonight, as the two face off in the nightcap of the inaugural Gulf Coast Showcase.

The Bonnies (3-1), who come off their first loss of the season in their first road game of the year, have seven guys averaging between 8-15 points per game but no go-to player. The Salukis (1-3) have a proven go-to player in senior guard Desmar Jackson, but have been forced to inject their best bench player into the starting lineup with starting forward Bronson Verhines out with a severely sprained ankle.

Sophomore guard/forward Jalen Pendleton, who is off to a career start with 53 points and 20 rebounds through the first four games of the year, will try to help make up for Verhines’ 7.3 rebounds per game against a big St. Bonaventure squad. The Bonnies, out of the Atlantic 10 Conference, start 7-footer Youssou Ndoye

(12.5 points per game, nine rebounds per game) and 6-8, 235-pound forward Marquise Simmons, who averages 9.3 points and six rebounds per game. Ndoye, who is from

the same place as former Saluki Mamadou Seck,

Dakar, Senegal, had season highs with 16 points and

12 rebounds in the Bonnies’ 72-70 loss at Siena Tuesday night.

SIU hopes to avoid a repeat of its earlier loss to Saint Louis, which grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and scored 13 second-chance points.

“Sean O’Brien’s gotta help us. Dawson Verhines has to step up, and, of course, we’ll start Jalen, put him in the starting position,” SIU coach Barry Hinson said. “I think any time Jalen is on the floor he’s got that spark. Jalen’s biggest issue is his shot selection and when he runs into a little stamina issue because he gets tired so easily, but we do know that he’ll play his tail off and we’ve just gotta be cognizant of when he hits that stamina wall to get somebody in there to relieve him. But right now, we don’t have a lot of guys to relieve him.”

Pendleton, a 6-2, 205-pound sophomore, scored a career-high 24 points in the Salukis’ win over Division II Missouri Science & Technology in their first game of the Gulf Coast Showcase. He made 10-of-15 from the floor and 4-of-8 at the free-throw line in 22 minutes.

“Southern Illinois is going to give us a heckuva challenge,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. “They got really good guards. The kid, Jackson, is probably gonna be one of the best, if not the best we play against from the perimeter standpoint. Pendleton is a guy that just does everything. It’s amazing what he can do with his size, and (Anthony) Beane can score, so we have a challenge ahead of us.”

todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087 / On Twitter: @THefferman

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