CARBONDALE — Kavion Pippen didn't miss a shot in the first half at Murray State Saturday, but Racers coach Matt McMahon wanted to play the percentages.
Against SIU's men's basketball team, that meant giving the Salukis the opportunity to get a possible three points instead of an almost certain two every time down the floor. SIU missed 14 of its 21 3-point attempts, including 9 of 13 in the second half, and lost 81-73 despite Pippen's 12 points in 31 minutes.
"They were really pounding the ball in there to Pippen, and we didn't really have an answer for him, but we didn't want to double team and leave (Tyler) Smithpeters and (Eric) McGill, and guys like (Armon) Fletcher," McMahon said. "Those guys can really get going from 3, so, we were willing to live with some tough twos there."
Pippen, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound junior center from Three Rivers (Missouri) Community College, made 6 of 8 from the field and added a block and a steal. He did not shoot a free throw for the first time this season, something SIU coach Barry Hinson wants to change at all costs when the Salukis (2-2) host sister school SIU-Edwardsville (1-4) tonight at 7.
Pippen leads SIU in scoring (12 points per game), is second in rebounding at 6.5 per game, and has nine of the team's 17 blocked shots. He has scored at least 10 points in every game this season, and could go a long way in improving the Salukis' 30 percent shooting behind the 3-point line this season.
"This is two games in a row that we've shot 21 3s, when you've got a guy that's down on the block that can score," Hinson said. "In the second half, we talked about getting the ball to K.P., literally, every time down the floor. Now, I promise ya, if you want to watch the game Wednesday night, he's gonna get a lot of shots."
Opposing posts have done well against the Cougars recently. Creighton's starting forwards combined for 31 points and 14 rebounds in a 103-66 win over the Cougars on Saturday in Omaha. Western Illinois' bigs also had a big day against SIUE earlier this season, as starting guard/forward Dalan Ancrum (34 points in 34 minutes) and 7-foot center Brandon Gilbeck had 10 points and 12 boards in the Leathernecks' 69-67 win in Edwardsville Nov. 22.
Pippen doesn't quite have the reach of Gilbeck, but could have a big role in SIU's attack. SIUE is expected to start 6-8, 220-pound senior forward Jalen Henry and 6-6, 210-pound senior forward Keenan Simmons.
"I think he does some really good things for them," SIUE coach Jon Harris said. "He's a good mover for his size. They went to him late in the Murray State game and he got some big baskets for them. He's a good ballplayer, and somebody we have to game plan for at both ends."
SIUE's lone victory this season came at Stetson Nov. 18, 80-76. Daniel Kinchen, a 6-3 junior guard from Alabama Southern Community College, scored 23 points and Henry had 20 points and 13 boards. Kinchen and Henry combined for nearly half the Cougars' points this season through five games, and 25 of their 37 3-pointers.
SIU is 8-1 against its sister school to the north. The Cougars won their only game in the series at SIU Arena on Dec. 9, 2015, 76-74. The Salukis won last season's game at Edwardsville, 101-83, behind forward Sean O'Brien's 22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
* Injury updates: Starting point guard Marcus Bartley and starting forward Thik Bol were scheduled to begin practicing with the team in a limited fashion Tuesday, Hinson said. Both are likely out for tonight's game and Saturday's home game against San Jose State.
Bartley broke a bone in his right wrist before the season and started working out with his left hand last week. Bol, who had surgery to repair a knee injury in late October, is expected to be out until early-to-mid-December.