CARBONDALE — SIU's 16 turnovers in Tuesday's win over North Carolina Central, 11 of which came in the second half, cost the Salukis 15 points. They will cost a lot more at Saint Louis Sunday afternoon.
The Billikens (6-1) live off turnovers and offensive rebounds, and without senior Aaron Cook, the Salukis (3-4) roll into Chaifetz Arena with a freshman starting point guard (Lance Jones) and two more in their top-nine (starting guard/forward Marcus Domask and guard Trent Brown). Saint Louis has forced 100 turnovers this season and scored 44 points off turnovers in its last three wins, over Boston College on the road, Belmont and High Point.
"They have extremely active hands. They pressure the ball, and it starts with their point guard, Yuri Collins, the freshman," said SIU coach Bryan Mullins, a Hall of Fame point guard for the Salukis in the late 2000s. "He puts a lot of pressure on the ball and tries to speed you up, and all their guys can guard. They move their feet. They all have active hands, and they're a very athletic team."
Jones scored two points, handed out two assists and turned it over four times in his first collegiate start Tuesday night. Jones also had SIU's only four steals and added three rebounds. Senior guard Eric McGill and Domask led the Salukis with five assists each in their 64-48 win over the Eagles, who were picked to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
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Boston College's 18 turnovers led to 12 Billiken points Wednesday. Collins, a 6-foot, 175-pound freshman point guard from St. Louis, had four assists and four turnovers in Saint Louis' 64-54 win in Boston. Collins' 6.4 assists per game lead the Atlantic-10 Conference and are tied for 17th-best in the NCAA.
Collins went 0 of 5 from the field against the Boston College Eagles and only averages five points a game. He is a bigger threat at the defensive end, where he normally hounds the other team's point guard. Billiken opponents have turned it over 100 times with 102 assists in seven games.
SIU has 90 assists and 83 turnovers in seven games. Domask has 20 of those assists, one off the team lead, and 13 turnovers. The 6-6, 215-pound Wisconsin native has played a big role in the Salukis' start, scoring a combined 54 points in their three wins and 37 in their four losses. Domask scored 18 points Tuesday night, six off his career-high set against UTSA, could post up and play point guard Sunday, and averages a team-high 34 minutes a game.
Asked where he's most comfortable, Domask said "I probably get the most reps in practice at the 4, but ever since I've been young I've been playing multiple positions. I'm really kind of used to it. On the court would be my best answer."
Domask has started quickly in his biggest games this season. He hit two of the Salukis' season-high 10 triples in the opening five minutes Tuesday night.
"He's a key piece to our team. He plays a ton of minutes and he does a lot of different things for us, in terms of being able to pass and shoot the ball well, and post up a little bit," Mullins said. "We need him to different things for us. It's not just his scoring. When he's passing the ball for us, even some of the attention he draws when he posts up, it's been good for us this year. Him, Barret (Benson), Ronnie (Suggs), Eric, those guys have to play big roles for us now with A.C. out."
On Twitter: @THefferman