CARBONDALE — Without Aaron Cook, who will miss at least the next month with a broken bone in his right hand, SIU's men's basketball team will play with a point guard-by-committee approach, coach Bryan Mullins said Monday.
The Salukis (2-4) will miss Cook's scoring more than his team-high 20 assists in over 186 minutes on the floor this season. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior scored in double figures in all six of games before getting hurt last week at Murray State. Freshman Lance Jones (nine assists, nine turnovers), senior Eric McGill (16 assists, 11 turnovers, 8.7 points per game) and freshman Trent Brown (three assists, one turnover in over 122 minutes) could all take some of the ballhandling when SIU hosts North Carolina Central (2-4) tonight.
"Lance is comfortable handling the ball. He's played some backup point for us throughout the season a little bit this year. It's going to be by committee," Mullins said. "I think Eric's going to play more, Trent, Marcus (Domask), Lance, obviously, so, everybody is going to have to pitch in with the ballhandling."
Jones, a 6-1, 200-pound backup most of the season, has already played more than 100 minutes. Brown has played over 20 minutes in four of SIU's six games with one turnover and three assists. SIU could simply turn the ball back over to McGill, a former point guard in junior college who has 16 assists, the second-most on the team, and is the Salukis' fourth-leading scorer at 8.7 points per game.
Domask, a 6-6, 215-pound guard/forward, is third on the team in assists (15), second in scoring (12.2 ppg.) and leads the Salukis with nine 3-pointers on 25 attempts (36%). SIU used its six days in between Murray State and the Eagles of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference wisely, Mullins said, and is showing progress with 11 new players (10 of which are eligible this year). With three freshmen in the lineup, and a fourth potentially making his debut tonight, every practice and every game helps.
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"It's a lot of new guys. A lot of guys that don't have Division I experience that, right now, are playing meaningful minutes for us," Mullins said. "The more practices we can get with 'em, and the more games we play together as a unit, the better we'll be, especially come Valley time. With A.C. out right now, it presents a little bigger challenge for us, but also gives us an opportunity for those other guys and our team to get better, when A.C. does get back, we'll be a deeper team."
NCCU ended a three-game losing streak with a 68-44 win over non-Division I Bluefield State on Thursday night. The Eagles, possibly one of the best programs you've never heard of, have reached the NCAA Tournament three straight years. Senior guard Randy Miller Jr. (18 ppg.) and senior forward Jibri Blount (14.3 ppg., 9.2 rpg.), the team's only returning starters from last year's tournament team, were both preseason all-conference picks.
NCCU coach LeVelle Moton represented Team USA for the second time this past summer as an assistant on the U19 World Cup Team that won gold in Greece. He previously helped with the U19 Team in 2015, when he assisted in training camp prior to the FIBA U19 World Championships.
SIU is 3-1 against current members of the MEAC, but Mullins expects a big challenge from NCCU.
"The scouting report is going to be very important for us, and we gotta be connected at the defensive end," he said. "We really gotta be playing as five guys at that end. The four guys off the ball have to be to the ball, and then we gotta finish possessions off. They're a strong, physical team. Their 4-man is 6-7, 230, Blount, so, we've gotta keep 'em off the glass."