SIU's men's basketball team takes on Saint Louis out of the Atlantic 10 Conference for the ninth straight season Sunday at 3 p.m.
The game from Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis is scheduled to air on Fox Sports Midwest/ESPN+ and the Saluki Radio Network. Folks in St. Louis can also listen to the game on 101 ESPN (101.1 FM). The Salukis (3-4) come off a 64-48 win over Noth Carolina Central, the preseason favorite in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, at home. The Billikens (6-1) are 5-1 at home and come off a road win at Boston College by the count of 64-54. It was their first and only true road game so far this season.
Here are three things to watch:
No. 1 — New faces, new places: Both teams are somewhat young, and have played various schedules. Junior guard Jordan Goodwin, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds in the win over Boston College, has scored in double figures in six of seven games and eight or more boards in five games. Junior forward Hasahn French averages 14.4 points and 10.6 rebounds a game, but the Billikens' other starters are freshman forward Jimmy Bell Jr., freshman point guard Yuri Collins and former SIU recruit Demarius Jacobs, who averaged 4.7 minutes a game last season in 19 appearances off the bench.
SIU, of course, will likely start two true freshmen (guard/forward Marcus Domask and guard Lance Jones) with two graduate transfers and senior guard Eric McGill. The Salukis played three games in three days in Florida on the opening weekend of the season and two of the best mid-major teams in the country in San Francisco (7-1) and Murray State (4-3). Three Salukis are St. Louis-area natives, redshirt freshman guard Karrington Davis (St. Louis), graduate transfer guard Ronnie Suggs (St. Louis) and junior forward Brendon Gooch (Belleville). Aaron Cook is also from St. Louis, but won't play because of a broken bone in his right (shooting) hand.
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All the freshmen have been challenged, but who will step up in the big moments for their teams Sunday?
No. 2 — Yuri Collins: Collins is a unique freshman point guard, as he is leading the Atlantic 10 in assists per game (6.4) on a squad that doesn't shoot it well. The Billikens have shot over 40% from the 30-point line in one game this season, the opener against Florida Gulf Coast (11 of 27). For the season, they're shooting 44.4% from the field but 33.1% from the 3-point line.
McGill, or Jones, or whoever guards Collins, will have to do a great job of keeping him in front or force him to make quick decisions. He only has 11 buckets on the season in seven games.
No. 3 — Battle of the boards: Saint Louis is like the Wichita State of the Atlantic 10, it is known for its defense and rebounding. Teams are shooting 37.8% against the Billikens this season and getting outboarded by an average of 7.3 per game. French averages 10.6 boards a game by himself, and Goodwin averaged 3.5 offensive boards a game last season.
SIU still struggles to get all five guys to go to the glass. The Salukis will have to be competitive off the boards to compete with Saint Louis. SIUmatched North Carolina Central 27-27 but got beat by 12 off the glass at Murray State and by 16 against San Francisco at home.