Saluki Sports: January 30, 2014

It’s hardly final . . . and we haven’t taken the time to check records extensively, but in addition to being one of the losingest teams in SIU’s history, the 2014 Salukis may become the all-time leader in “close” losses.

Coach Barry Hinson’s outfit is developing a true ability to play well enough to lose by just a few points.

Check the records to date:  The Salukis lost by two points to Austin Peay and Miami  (Ohio), by three points to San Diego and Drake, by four points to Chicago State, by six points to Evansville, Bradley and Missouri State, by eight points to Murray State, and by nine to Western Kentucky.

It’s true . . . a loss is a loss whether by one or 21, but eight losses by six or fewer points is somewhat unusual.  And, believe me, we’re not trying to make excuses for this year’s team.  Nor last year’s team (14-17).  Nor Chris Lowery’s final team in 2012 (6-23).  Nor Lowery’s second-to-last team in 2011 (11-19).  Nor his 2010 team (15-15).  Nor his 2009 team (13-18).

It’s been six years since SIU’s basketball program has finished with a winning record and that was a somewhat modest 18-15 mark.

That’s not good.  In fact, it’s bad even if this year’s outfit is showing some signs of being competitive.

We acknowledge the fact that Hinson has gone to a young starting lineup.  In SIU’s most recent loss — at Missouri State — it not only was young, but exceptionally young with three freshmen and a sophomore.

The Salukis competed.  They got off to a fine start, overcame several Missouri State leads during the game and were definitely within striking range in the closing minutes of the game.

However, before one gets excited about the future . . . and particularly in competing against Missouri State, it’s only fair to note that the Bears have one of the youngest teams in the nation.  Their leading scorer, a sophomore Marcus Marshall, was recently injured and out for the remainder of the season.  A freshman, Austin Ruder, and two other sophomores — Gavin Thurman and Dorrian Williams — combined for 39 of Missouri State’s 69 points against SIU’s 63.

Bear coach Paul Lusk — yeh, the former Saluki great — has two other underclassmen playing at 6-10.  Lusk is loaded for the future just as are several other Missouri Valley Conference teams.  The Valley, while not necessarily strong this season outside of Wichita State and Indiana State, is loaded with young players.

Despite the fact that the Salukis are comparatively young, there’s no guarantee that they’re going to wind up being the league’s next pre-season choice for championship honors.  Or the following season.

Yet, it’s first things first and the Salukis need to win a few games this season, by a single point or whatever.  Win a few games and avoid another single-digit win total.  That’s a truly tough figure to hide and fortunately there’s only been a few in SIU’s basketball history.

The one we have trouble with is the 1980 record of 7-20 which came after a 7-2 start, including an opening win over Memphis State.  We still haven’t figured that one out and don’t even try any longer.
Fred Huff| For The Cairo Citizen