CARBONDALE — SIU coach Barry Hinson readily admits it.
He is in uncharted territory. With just nine active players on the roster he is flying by the seat of his pants. The Salukis were dealt another serious blow on Wednesday when the team learned Jonathan Wiley was lost for the season due to a knee injury suffered in Sunday’s loss to Drake.
“I’ve never been in this situation before,” Hinson said simply.
But, Hinson approached this hardship like most Americans – he went to the internet.
“I read an article today, I read as much stuff as I could today, Googling terms like ‘depleted teams, depleted lineups, injured lineups, short numbers,’” he said. “I just Googled all those. I got these articles. The one I particularly got was on Golden State. It talked about how they practiced.”
The short bench affects in-game decisions, but it has altered the team’s preparation.
“We haven’t played five-on-five basketball since Vegas,” Hinson said. “We’ve got nobody. Nobody. We‘ve got nine guys right now. We’re going to try to pick up a walk-on when we get back and we’re going to try to pick up a football player. But, that’s not going to happen until Jan. 17-18. We’re playing our managers and coach (Justin) Walker out there.
“So, we’re not even going five-on-five. We’re going shorter. We’re putting a lot more emphasis on skill development and film and walk through. We’re not guarding anything live. We’re just walking through it.”
And, then there are in-game decisions.
The Salukis finished Wednesday night’s game with a short lineup on the floor. Armon Fletcher, who is listed at 6-foot-5, was playing the five spot. He was surrounded by guards Sean Lloyd, Tyler Smithpeters, Marcus Bartley and Aaron Cook.
So, what’s Hinson’s approach?
“It’s going to come down to game-by-game, just like it did today,” he said. “Believe me, we want to keep Kavion (Pippen) on the floor, but Kavion’s struggled. He’s had two games in a row where he’s struggled. And, Rudy (Stradnieks) was definitely struggling defensively. We just decided we had to go small.
“It’s gut. It’s being old and being through many of these games.”
As for the players, it’s simply the reality they are dealing with.
“It doesn’t affect us in a bad way,” Fletcher said. “I think it just motivates everybody else to play harder, fight harder, focus more. It’s just the next guy up. It’s pretty much be ready for anything the way the season has been going. Everybody is pretty much ready for anything.
“We’re some Dawgs. We’re some Dawgs man.”