Saturday, February 24, 2007

The SIU Saluki Blog

So yesterday, I mentioned I was this close to making Friday's blog a blog about the freshly crowned MVC regular season champion SIU Salukis. Instead, it was the usual Friday Off The Wall Blog, so now, about 5 hours from game time, I thought I'd do my commemorative SIU blog here.
  • On Wednesday, SIU claimed sole-possession of the MVC crown with a 58-50 win against Indiana State University in Terre Haute, IN. With the title already wrapped up, that sets up Senior Night tonight against Evansville. SIU is sporting a 10 game winning streak, with their last loss coming at the hands of the Purple Aces, 75-68. Tonight, SIU's senior leaders Tony Young and Jamaal Tatum will be looking for revenge. On a serious note however, Senior Night is a special night for everyone in attendance. For the seniors, it's their last game on a home court that they've dominated over the course of the last four years. For the fans, it's a final send off to the players that have brought NCAA tourney appearances in each of their four years here in Carbondale. There's such a bond between this community and their players, it's special.
  • For me, every game at the SIU Arena is special. The team is great, the fans are into the game....overall, it's an amazing atmosphere. Of all the games that have happened this year the following games stand out in my mind the most.
  1. SIU's 68-64 win over Virginia Tech was SIU's biggest win of the early season. It proved that SIU could play with the big boys of the ACC, on a neutral court in a tournament setting at that. Va. Tech would later be ranked and would go on to beat Duke on Coach K's court and North Carolina, twice.
  2. SIU's biggest road win arguably came at a sold out Koch Arena against Wichita State. SIU's 54-46 win over the Shockers proved that SIU, who had struggled on the road early in the season, could win in a hostile environment. The Dawgs were lead by Tatum (18 points) and juniors Matt Shaw and an ill Randal Falker (13 points each).
  3. In the best college basketball rivalry not on Tobacco Road, SIU swept the season series against arch-rival Creighton. In the first meeting at Creighton's Qwest Center, SIU won 58-57 on a left handed runner by sophomore guard Bryan Mullins with under two seconds to play. SIU won the second game in their first step to winning the conference outright with a 72-68 victory at the SIU Arena. That night, the Dawgs were sparked by shooting almost 86% from the floor and lead by Shaw's 25 points.
  4. One could argue that SIU's biggest win to date was last weekend's 68-64 win at then #12 Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse on BracketBuster Saturday. In a battle the two highest ranking teams in the short history of the BracketBuster games, SIU was lead by Tatum's game-high 20 points, breaking Butler's 20-game home winning streak.
  • The men's basketball team may be the talk of the town, but the ladies deserve some love too. For the first time since 1990, the Saluki women have earned at least a share of the MVC regular season title with their 63-60 victory over Evansville, in the first-ever Pink-Out night at the SIU Arena. This marks a quick turnaround for third-year coach Dana Eikenberg who, with help of developing players and transfers from her old school UMKC, who turned the SIU women from MVC bottom-feeders to champions in such a short time span. Congrats to the Saluki women, who close out MVC play with home games against Missouri State (March 1) and Wichita State (March 3)
  • On a final note, former SIU head coach and current University of Illinois coach Bruce Weber had some kind words to say about his former program. He said he speaks often with current SIU coach, his former assistant at U of I, Chris Lowery and credited the hard working players, some of which he helped recruit. "Oh, yeah, those are my guys, whether it's the coaches or the players. The top four or five guys are still guys we recruited," Weber said. All I have to say is that they're not your guys anymore Bruce, esepcially when you abandoned them for the greener pastures of Champaign-Urbana in a community that didn't want you in the first place and that is itching for your ouster A.S.A.P. Of his recruits, only Tatum and Young remain. Former Saluki guard/forward Mike Dale left the team last year for unspecified reasons. And though B-Web helped recruit Falker and Shaw before Matt Painter (now coaching at Purdue) took over the program, Weber should have no problems scheduling a team that he helped put on the map. Unless he's afraid of the monster he helped create.
Hope everyone gets a chance to watch the game or be there. Go Dawgs!

No comments: