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North Carolina Central Eagles at Southern Illinois Salikis

SIU men's basketball coach Bryan Mullins calls out to his team on Tuesday during the first half of a game against North Carolina Central at the Banterra Center in Carbondale.

SIU sticking with the process, a busy night in the Missouri Valley Conference, and Kavion Pippen continues strong season in the G League. All in today's Saluki Basketball 5@5.

For the latest news and tidbits surrounding the SIU men's basketball team and the Missouri Valley Conference, tune in to the Saluki Basketball 5@5 every day Monday through Friday at 5 p.m. Only at thesouthern.com. To subscribe to The Southern Illinoisan and get the best Salukis coverage around, go to thesouthern.com or call 618-529-5454. Digital-only subscriptions start at just $5 a month. There is always more online!

No. 1 - Long-term approach: SIU's men's basketball team played hard enough to win Sunday at Saint Louis. Newcomers Sekou Dembele and Stevan Jeremic didn't play, and the Salukis' five starters scored all but three points in their 69-60 loss.

With conference play beginning in 27 days, SIU is sticking with a long-term approach in coach Bryan Mullins' first season.

"It's not the start that we wanted, but coach has complete confidence in us," SIU guard Marcus Domask said. "He tells us that every day, and I think everybody believes him. We're buying in, and as long as we continue to do what we need to do in practice, it's gonna flip."

Freshman guard Lance Jones, one of four new players that started for the Salukis at Saint Louis, scored a career-high 14 points and had five assists and four turnovers in just over 32 minutes. Jones, thrust into the starting point guard role with Aaron Cook's injury, has seven assists in his last two games and seven boards.

"We're really hard to beat when we do everything right and play together, so, it's just a consistent basis we have to have," Jones said. "And with the coaches we have, I think we'll get there."

SIU (3-5) has dropped three of its last four games since returning from Florida. The Salukis host Norfolk State (3-6) Wednesday night and go to Southern Mississippi (2-6) Saturday before Finals Week. SIU closes the non-conference part of its season at Missouri Dec. 15 and at home against Hampton and Southeast Missouri State. The Salukis open conference play at Indiana State (3-4) Monday, Dec. 30.

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No. 2 - Busy night in the MVC: Seven of the league's 10 teams are in action tonight, with North Dakota State taking on the Sycamores beginning at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN+. Some games to monitor tonight: Murray State is at Missouri State, Illinois State is at TCU, and Bradley is at No. 15 Memphis at 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

No. 3 - Pippen averaging nearly nine and five in Austin: Former Saluki center Kavion Pippen made 2 of 4 from the field and all three of his free-throw attempts in the Austin Spurs' 122-101 loss to the South Bay Lakers Nov. 29. Pippen grabbed eight rebounds to go with his nine points before fouling out after 17 minutes. Pippen is averaging 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds off the bench for the Spurs (4-5) in the G League.

Austin is next at the Texas Legends Wednesday night at 7 p.m. You can watch the game on ESPN+ (subscription required).

No. 4 - Evansville adds 6-7 forward: Evansville signed 6-foot-7 forward Johnathan DeJurnett out of Lausanne Collegiate in Memphis, a program that competed in the Carbondale Holiday Tournament a few years ago.

DeJurnett will be a freshman in 2020-21 and is on the cusp of reaching 1,500 points in his high school career. He averaged 15 points and nine rebounds as a junior last season.

"Johnathan DeJurnett is a special player. He has a relentless motor and plays above the rim," Evansville coach Walter McCarty said in a release from the school Monday. "His desire to be the best that he can is present on the court and in the classroom. He will be a terrific student-athlete at the University of Evansville."

No. 5 - One way or the other: SIU never trailed in its three victories this season, over Nicholls State, UTSA and Division III Illinois Wesleyan. Norfolk State, Wednesday night's opponent, has not trailed in two of its three victories. The Spartans and non-Division I Greensboro went through six lead changes before Norfolk State won 100-59. The Spartans and Niagara had five lead changes before Niagara won 65-61. Norfolk State never trailed, or never led, in its other seven games.

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todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087

On Twitter: @THefferman

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