During the Salukis’ 83-73 loss Saturday to Wichita State, one thing became obvious: SIU doesn’t have an answer for bigger teams.
Shocker forwards Garrett Stutz and Carl Hall dominated the Salukis on the boards and in the paint while allowing Wichita State’s guards to get open look after open look. This allowed Wichita State guard Joe Ragland to score a game-high 20 points.
“Stutz got a 10-0 run by himself to start the half. After the ten- minute mark (in the second half), he didn’t score again. Dantiel (Daniels) did a great job on him the rest of the way,” head coach Chris Lowery said. “He was the reason for (Wichita State’s success in) the first 10 minutes, and then Ragland was the reason for the last ten.”
Senior forward Mamadou Seck and Lowery both said Wichita State’s size was a key to their loss, but there isn’t a lot they can do about it. Sophomore forward Davante Drinkard is the biggest player on the roster at 6 foot 9 inches and 225 pounds, but he only averages 16.7 minutes per game.
Freshman forward Dantiel Daniels is a big 6 foot 6 inches and 225 pounds, but with a 7- footer in Stutz battling Daniels for rebounds, it’s tough to compensate for the size difference.
Seck is the opposite of Daniels, a very slim 6 foot 7 inches, but he’s arguably one of the best rebounders in the Missouri Valley Conference. Despite that, he still gets pushed around when he tries to post up on bigger forwards.
Saturday wasn’t the first time the Salukis’ lack of size hurt them. In the 83-58 loss to Kansas State in the Diamond Head Classic, forwards Jordan Henriquez and Thomas Gipson helped Kansas State out-rebound SIU by a 44-31 margin. Henriquez is 6 foot 11 inches and 250 pounds, while Gipson is 6 foot 7 inches and 275.
So what does this mean for the conference schedule ahead? SIU has to play Wichita State again on its home court while the team they played last night, Missouri State, has a big center in Caleb Patterson, who is 6 foot 11 inches and 256 pounds. Missouri State also has reigning MVC Player of the Year Kyle Weems in its front court, who is Daniels’ size, but can stretch the floor with his ability to hit from beyond the arc.
Creighton, the only nationally ranked team in the Valley, is built like Missouri State with center Greg Echenique and Naismith Award candidate Doug McDermott. Northern Iowa features Jake Koch and Seth Tuttle in their front court, who size up favorably against SIU, while Drake has a similar 1-2 punch at forward with Ben Simmons and Jordan Clarke.
The good news for SIU is they have depth now, so if Daniels gets into foul trouble as he did early against Wichita State, Lowery doesn’t have to go with a smaller lineup as he did before Drinkard’s redshirt was removed.
Another good sign for SIU is guards are shooting better with each game. Junior guard T.J. Lindsay found his stroke from beyond the arc against Illinois State when he went 6 for 7 from three. He’s shooting .429 from the three point line this season, while the return of junior guard Kendal Brown-Surles also helped the Salukis’ shooting woes.
“We’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on our shooting,” Lindsay said. “At the beginning of the season, we weren’t really shooting well, so Coach thought we really needed to get in the gym.”
Freshman forward Treg Setty, senior guard Justin Bocot and junior guard Jeff Early have had their moments shooting this season, but they need to be more consistent if they’re going to help the team overcome their lack of size and make a run at a possible postseason appearance after the MVC tournament in March.