Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson, formerly of Missouri State, took some time Friday to discuss this weekend’s Salukis-Aces game. The teams tip at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Ford Center.
Southern Illinois enters 7-6 and 0-2 in Missouri Valley Conference play following a 66-60 loss this week to Bradley. The Salukis are dealing with injuries, academic issues and suspensions in Hinson’s first season as he builds.
All of those problems add up to Southern Illinois playing small on Saturday. “Certainly, we’re not doing this by choice,” Hinson said. “We’re limited. We’re down to one big man, and we’re hanging on a string with him because he’s got really bad feet. He’s been injured all year long. And then we lost Dantiel Daniels to a sprained ankle for another two weeks. Certainly this isn’t by design or by choice. We understand our deficiencies, but there’s nothing we can do about them. In order to try to combat all of that, we have to play small, and everybody’s taking advantage of us. It’s the reality of it right now, and until we can get Dantiel back and get Davante (Drinkard) healthy, we’re just going to struggle.”
Overall, the Salukis are still above .500 despite being picked last in the MVC before the season started. “I think one of the things (the players) are trying to do is, they’re trying to please me. We’re limited on what we can do, so we’ve gone back to the drawing board a little bit and just asked them, ‘Can you give us a great effort, and can you give us a great attitude? Can we try to just get better every day?’ We understand where we are in the league. We certainly don’t want to finish there. We’ve got a major task before us. We’re not going to play one game in the league where we’re going to be favored. We’re the underdog in every game we play. This is a little bit Lewis and Clark for me. I’m in uncharted territory.”
Hinson has played UE teams coached by Marty Simmons going back to his days at Missouri State. “I think a lot of games are difficult, but I think this is a difficult game because Marty’s team is so cerebral,” he said. “We don’t do well with cerebral teams. It’s people who have extended possessions, which Marty has always had, causes difficulty for everybody. I’ve always joked about Marty and (former UE coach) Jim Crews. You’d get off the bus, and when you’d go into Roberts Stadium there’s a janitor setting a back screen on us when we walk in the door. I’ve always enjoyed watching Marty’s teams play. They’re extremely well-coached.”
Hinson hadn’t yet seen game film of UE’s win over Missouri State earlier this week, but he did hear about Aces senior Troy Taylor’s stat line: “I’m absolutely amazed at how a point guard can get 19 rebounds. That may be the greatest stat of all time.”
What to expect from Southern Illinois’ offense: “Our offense has always been designed to score inside out, and right now we’re struggling with that because we don’t have height. That’s our biggest challenge, and we’ve not shown to be a very good perimeter team…We can’t shoot, we can’t score, we don’t have anybody who can score inside, we’re struggling to stop anybody – like I said, we’re plugging holes. We’re just challenged. It’s where we are right now.”
And the defense: “We’ve been forced to play an enormous amount of zone. We don’t like it. Marty knows me about as well as anybody, and he knows we’re a predominantly man-to-man team. But because of our deficiencies and only have nine players, just depth-wise, foul trouble, everything – we have to play quite a bit of zone.”