The Bulls spent Friday night making their case to be nationally ranked, but don’t think for a second that beating West Virginia would mentally be UB’s toughest test of the week.
In West Virginia UB was playing with house money, literally. UB was paid to go play a top 15 team, in their opening night, and a close loss would have not hurt them too much in anyone’s eyes. That UB rallied to upset the Mountaineers has only made the already big target on UB’s grow. Everyone left on our schedule sees UB as a chance at a quality win come selection time.
And first up is SIU. While UB was taking down the #13 team in the nation on Friday, SIU went to an even tougher venue to play Kentucky. She Salukis managed to build up leads in both the first and second half before Kentucky rallied.
Southern Illinois is returning a lot of players from a 20-win team last season who were solid on the defensive side of the bears. SIU kept opponents under 70 points a game and forced them into almost 14 turnovers a game. Last year Southern Illinois was 15-1 when holding an opponent under 70 points.
On the offensive side they bring back their top four scorers, with the lowest among them averaging just under 10 points a game (9.8). Against Kentucky SIU junior guard Aaron Cook had a game-high 18 points.
All in all, SIU is considered by many to be one of the top 10 mid major programs in the country this season. Make no mistake this game is a real test for the Bulls as SIU is chomping at the bit to get a quality opponent in for their home opener.
If the Bulls are to win they will need to clean a few things up from the first half of the West Virginia game and see SIU for the threat that they are. UB senior CJ Massinburg is great, but UB cannot count on 40+ points a night, the players who shot poorly through the first 20-30 minutes need to come out with some sharper shooting this week.
Also, given SIU’s strengths, the Bulls need to take care of the ball. If they can turn this into a track meet, and maintain possessions the game is likely to fall in their favor. If they get sloppy and turn the ball over SIU could be celebrating their own big win.