CARBONDALE — Basketball looks easy when the ball is going in the basket.
When it’s not, well, then it looks like Southern Illinois University’s 65-61 home loss to Valparaiso on Saturday. The Salukis had an incredible 22 offensive rebounds. SIU had assists on more than 50 percent of their baskets.
So, how did they lose?
Turnovers are one culprit – the Salukis had 13. In addition, the Salukis couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
For the game, SIU was 25-65 from the floor, 38.5 percent. That’s deceivingly good. Pippen was 10-of-19. Take SIU’s post players, Pippen, Thik Bol and Rudy Stradnieks out of the equation, and the Salukis were 13-of-43.
For the math-impaired, that’s 30.2 percent.
“Our guards can’t go 6-for-23,” said SIU coach Barry Hinson. “We’re not going to beat anybody doing that. We have to find a way to get some of our guards going offensively. I thought our bigs today led us.
“I just think we missed shots. I just think it was one of those nights we didn’t make shots. It’s a confidence factor. You have to get to the point where you feel a little bit better, a little more confidence. Hopefully, we’ll start building on that.”
The game looked easy for SIU in the first eight minutes. The Salukis rolled to an early 17-10 lead while converting seven of their first 13 shots. SIU appeared poised to take control of the game when Armon Fletcher and Aaron Cook hit back-to-back treys.
Yet, everything unraveled quickly. It would be nearly six minutes before SIU would score again.
In the meantime, the Salukis got four stops in a row. However, they failed to build upon their lead. During that time span SIU missed three shots and turned the ball over twice.
“I think it was just a bad shooting night for us,” said Fletcher, who made 5-of-13 shots. “Their big man didn’t even come out of the paint on ball screens. That just comes down to everybody making shots. We had a few good ones later in the game that swung the lead back our way. We just have to continue getting in the gym and practicing those shots.”
Valparaiso struggled defensively in the non-conference season. Four games into the conference season, Crusader opponents have made 43.1 percent of their shots. However, the defense has improved dramatically in conference play. Going into Saturday’s games, Valparaiso held Missouri Valley Conference opponents to 37.1 shooting.
Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich said the Crusaders used the holiday break to reassess.
“As a coaching staff, we just relaxed and evaluated what we wanted this season to be,” he said. “We knew we had to get tougher and it’s been a point of emphasis. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, practices have been really hard. We demand a lot of these guys and they responded.”