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SIU Men’s Basketball

SIU Basketball | Colorado vs. Salukis: 3 things to watch

ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands — Lance Jones was going off, and Marcus Domask had the rare opportunity to sit back and watch the 6-foot-1 junior guard take over against Austin Peay.

Jones scored all of his 22 points against the Govs in the second half at the Banterra Center to help the Salukis (1-1) make some momentum for the Paradise Jam. Jones scored seven points in the opening three minutes to help SIU retake the lead. The third team preseason all-conference guard added an assist to Domask for a six-point lead, and then ran off seven in a row to put the Salukis up 13.

"He was getting to the rim whenever he wanted to," Domask said after SIU's 73-55 victory. "He was getting anything he wanted. It was fun to watch. It was cool to see."

Jones said Austin Peay showed more respect for SIU's outside shooters than him when he got by his man on the perimeter. Jones finished 8 of 12 from the field and 5 of 6 at the free-throw line in just over 32 minutes. His three assists tied Domask for the team lead.

"When I was drivin', they were kind of fanning out to the shooters, and that just left the lane wide open for me," Jones said. "If they collapsed, I would try to make the skip-pass out."

The Salukis still won despite missing 14 of 18 3-point attempts. SIU made 11 of 30 from downtown in its road loss at Little Rock, and hopes to hurt Colorado (3-0) from the perimeter when the two teams square off in the nightcap of the opening day in the Virgin Islands. If SIU wins, it will get Saturday off and play the winner of Northeastern (1-2) and Duquesne (1-2) Sunday at 7 p.m. (Central time). If the Salukis lose to the Buffaloes, they'll play the loser of the Huskies/Dukes Saturday at 4:45 p.m.

Here are three more things to watch when SIU takes on Colorado Friday night at the Paradise Jam: 

No. 1 — The battle of the boards

Colorado is not overly big — the Buffaloes start three forwards, 6-8, 259-pound forward Evan Battey and two wings in 6-9 Jabari Walker and 6-9 Tristan da Silva — but they are incredibly aggressive off the glass. Colorado had 12 offensive boards in its 44-point win over Maine Monday night and have outrebounded its three opponents by an average of 17 boards a game.

"(They send) three at least, and then they've got great length," SIU coach Bryan Mullins said. "After their point guards and (Eli) Parquet, a lot of their wings are 6-7, 6-8, 6-9 physical guys. Guys that play extremely hard. Da Silva, (Nique) Clifford, Walker, (Luke) O'Brien off the bench, so, they've got a lot of toughness off the bench and on the wings. They really do a good job of offensive rebounding."

Walker (15.3 points, 8 rebounds per game) is on the watch list for the Julius Erving Award, which goes to the top small forward in the country. The 215-pound sophomore from Inglewood, California, had his third career double-double against Maine (17 points, 10 rebounds).

"He's a guy who can really shoot the ball from the perimeter," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. "He proved that last year, and he's working on expanding his game so he can drive closeouts, put the ball on the floor. He's a good offensive rebounder, he's a good defensive rebounder. He's just a solid forward who can hurt you in a lot of ways. If Jabari will be patient and let the game come to him, he's going to be a very important player for us."  

No. 2 — Colorado's opening 10 minutes

Going into the tournament, if there are favorites to win it, they're both from Colorado. The Buffaloes lost All-American guard McKinley Wright IV, the program's all-time assists leader (683) and its sixth-leading scorer (1,857 points), and were getting votes in The Associated Press top-25 poll before close home wins against Montana State (94-90 in overtime) and New Mexico (87-76). Colorado State (3-0) is the preseason favorite in the Mountain West Conference and is averaging 96 points per game.

Neither Colorado or Colorado State have played away from home yet. SIU is older, and may be able to control the tempo if it's able to take care of the ball. The Salukis want to win their first multi-team event (MTE) since 2009, and can't do it without winning their tournament opener at the University of the Virgin Islands.

"For us it's a chance to win a championship early in the season," Mullins said. "We didn't get to play in an MTE last year, so it's a chance for us to compete for a championship, so that's really exciting for our guys. Really, to play against seven teams that are NCAA-caliber teams with great coaches and great programs, so, it'll be a great four or five days of basketball for us." 

No. 3 — Defending without fouling

Opponents are shooting 77.3% at the free-throw line against SIU this season, and if the Salukis want to beat Colorado they can't give them too many attempts. The Buffaloes have four different players that have drawn 14 or more free-throw attempts and are 72 of 100 at the stripe for the year.

"They do a great job of moving without the ball, and then they play downhill constantly," Mullins said. "Their spacing is very good, very challenging, so they put you in a lot of closeouts, take away a lot of weakside help. So, for us, it's, A, we gotta get back in transition. We can't be playing at a disadvantage the entire game, and then we gotta be disciplined when we do guard, that we guard without fouling. Show our hands, use our chest. Jump second. Don't go for the shot-fakes, or the low post moves, and just try to make them make tough 2s and tough 3s." 

todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087

On Twitter: @THefferman

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