Roundtree, Cornelius leave SIU

Additional quotes from the developing story that freshman guard Torres Roundtree and junior forward Christian Cornelius have left the SIU men’s basketball team.

Torres Roundtree:

  • On the future of SIU basketball:  “The freshmen are good. Justin Bocot, Anthony Booker and Kevin Dillard are all good and they have a bright future because the talent is there.
  • On whether or not he will continue his basketball career:  “I still have aspirations of playing basketball, so I’m just going to see whoever wants me and try to go there.”
  • On whether or not he will finish the academic year at SIU: “I don’t know yet, I just want to do what’s right for me.”

Christian Cornelius:

  • On leaving the team because of injuries: “I always had thoughts (of leaving) in the back of my mind from the beginning of the season, and I feel really bad because the coaches allowed me to return to the team and I really appreciate them for that.”
  • On his injuries: “My doctor told me after my injury that I wouldn’t be able to play again, so it really was supposed to be a career-ending injury.  But in the back of my mind I told myself I wouldn’t give up on myself.”
  • On his future after basketball: “I want to go somewhere and get my masters, that’s the main thing right now.”
  • On whether or not he left because of the system. “My reasons for leaving have nothing to do with the program.  I have a lot of love and respect for Coach Lowery.”

Losing both Roundtree and Cornelius will be tough on SIU for the remainder of the season as their departures have shortened the team’s depth, which was considered to be one of the team’s strengths coming into the season.  The 6-foot-3 Roundtree was a finalist for Mr. Show-Me Basketball in his senior year at McCluer North High School in St. Louis and provided athleticism and the ability to attack the basket.

Cornelius, the 6-foot-7 junior from Oak Park, was limited by injuries throughout his career as a Saluki, but led the team in field goal percentage this year, shooting 54 percent.

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Lowery: Dillard will start

SIU men’s basketball coach Chris Lowery said freshman guard Kevin Dillard will be moved into the starting rotation during Tuesday’s Lowery Live radio show at Buffalo Wild Wings in Carbondale.

Illinois’ reigning Mr. Basketball is coming off a 21-point performance in the Salukis’ 79-63 loss against Bradley.  Dillard is averaging 10.8 points per game and is shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from the 3-point line.

Dillard will join fellow freshman Ryan Hare and Bryan Mullins in the Saluki backcourt as Wesley Clemmons will return to the bench and resume his spot as a role player.

Hopefully, the move will spark the Salukis, who will enter their New Year’s Eve matchup against Missouri Valley Conference rival Northern Iowa with a 5-7 record.

NBA!

By: Edyta Blaszczyk

Dunk

Today I had the fantastic opportunity of covering the basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and the Los Angeles Clippers at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Let’s just say that for my first NBA game, a double overtime with the Clippers coming out on top with a 117-109 win was the best introduction I could have had.

How did I get such a privilege you ask? Well fellow DE reporters Luis Medina, Jeff Engelhardt and I were sent out on the road to cover the Wooden Tradition where Purdue will challenge Davidson and SIU will take on St. Mary’s in good ‘ole Indianapolis in the Conseco Fieldhouse. The offer to cover the Pacers – Clippers game was given to anyone who would be covering the Wooden Tradition. Luis then worked his magic with the media relations crew and got us our wonderful media passes. Bless the soul of whoever came up with that idea, because of him or her, Luis, Jeff and I rocked out at our first NBA game as reporters…or visual reporters in my case.

I would like to share with all the world how my experience went.

First off, we were treated exceptionally well in the Media Services room. We were fed well with the buffet that included salads, mostaccioli, pizza, and breadsticks. Not to forget the desert island. Yum. On the tables were also bowls of delicious popcorn. The one thing that felt awkward was that there was a fellow whose job is to walk around and pick up after everyone and refill drinks. I just simply wanted to throw out my own plate and refill my own drink.

With 10 minutes left until gametime, we set off to our assigned locations and started to work. I was a bit overwhelmed by all the tall players (I’m 5’3″) I have to admit. After getting accustomed to it all, I got in my groove and shot away.

I had some pretty interesting moments happen to me when my shutter wasn’t going off. One would be getting tips and laughs from a photographer that sat next to me. Another was getting hit on by one of the mascots every time he came on the court. He “kissed” my hand, stole my camera bag, danced sexy for me, and insisted on me calling him. After the game, this fellow photographer told me he saw me turn bright red from the catwalk. Another photographer, Frank McGrath, who was sitting next to me decided to take photos, as seen below. I’m excited and curious to know what the guy looks like under his helmet. Guess I’ll never know.

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One thing that Luis and Jeff have started teasing me for is my new found crush on the Pacers forward Josh McRoberts.

josh mcroberts

I guess I have a thing for tall white guys with scruffy beards, like Kyle Orton. But that’s neither here nor there.

The Pacers ended up losing in a tight game, but it was an experience that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Thanks Media Services people for the Pacers.

Chris Lowery sparks the following randomness

By Luis C. Medina

SIU men’s basketball head coach Chris Lowery didn’t have much of a comment when asked to speak about his 100th win as Saluki head coach.  He said his players were more excited for him than he was for himself.  Then he gave the ultimate coach response, focusing on the task currently at hand.

And that’s where you have got to applaud Lowery.  He doesn’t care about the past.  He once told me that down the road he’ll look at his record and reflect on it, but if you look at it now it’s quite impressive.

You could argue he did it with another coach’s talent as he preceded the work that Bruce Weber and Matt Painter did for the program.  But Lowery, a former Saluki star himself, kept with the winning formula and took the talent to within a 3-point shot of an Elite 8 appearance.  Not bad for a directional state university.

And while his youthful team of upstarts is reaping the benefits with trips to Madison Square Garden to square off against the likes of Duke and UCLA and its upcoming trip to Indianapolis’ Conseco Field House where Pacers great Reggie Miller once starred, the team is where it is today because of how Lowery continued to build on the team’s past.

When SIU was hanging on to its slim hopes of an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb and his play-by-play colleague (whose name I don’t remember at this sitting) debated whether or not SIU was deserving of a bid.  That’s when Gottlieb’s words struck me and stunned me.

“Why do you think they deserve a bid?  Just because they’re Southern Illinois?”

That kind of statement is generally reserved for the big boys.  Power conference schools squeaking by with .500 records despite NBA talents, not the gritty kind of schools like SIU.  That’s when I knew Saluki basketball was big.

And now it’s up to Lowery to continue to build on what he started.  This team of youngsters might not make the NCAA Tournament.  They might even bow out in the second round of the NIT again.  But if Lowery is at the helm of this program and continues to carry the torch of Saluki hoops, his 200th win might be just around the corner.

How to keep tabs on Saluki basketball over break

By: Luis Medina

Are you trying to figure out how you’re going to live without the SIU men’s basketball team in your life?

Here is what is on tap for Salukis during the winter break.

The SIU men’s basketball team begins a three-game road trip Sunday as it travels to face Nevada (3-4) in a rematch of last year’s BracketBuster showdown. The Salukis (3-4) beat the Wolfpack at the SIU Arena last season, 74-49, but both teams are missing its top two scorers from last season’s match up.

Looking for a reasonably priced road trip? I’ve got a deal for you Saluki fans.

SIU returns to the Midwest to face in-state rival Northern Illinois (4-5) on Dec. 17. The Salukis defeated the Huskies last season, 88-68. Head coach Chris Lowery said it will be a homecoming game of sorts for several SIU players as guards Bryan Mullins, Kevin Dillard and Ryan Hare, along with forward Christian Cornelius return to play in the northern Illinois area.

Fans in the Chicagoland area should definitely make the trip to DeKalb and turn Northern’s home court into SIU Arena North.

The trip concludes Dec. 20 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis as senior guard Wesley Clemmons returns to his home town as SIU will face Saint Mary’s (6-1) in the Wooden Tradition. The Salukis are winless in their two neutral court games, falling to Duke and UCLA, and the competition does not get easier for SIU. The Gaels feature one of the nation’s best guards, Patrick Mills, who averages 20.1 points per game.

So if you want to see the Salukis play in an NBA arena and watch some exciting basketball (the tourney features nationally ranked Purdue and Davidson) then a trip to Indianapolis seems to be more affordable than one to New York City.

The Missouri Valley Conference portion of SIU’s schedule tips-off Dec. 28 as it travels to Peoria to face Bradley (4-3). The Salukis bounced the Braves in both of their match ups last season.

Staying in Carbondale? I’ve got a solution for you!

SIU wraps up its out-of-conference schedule Dec. 22 as it hosts Western Michigan (2-7). The Broncos beat the Salukis last season, 57-41, as SIU put forth one of its most disappointing offensive efforts. The Salukis only shot 26.9 percent and had no players score in double figures.

SIU hosts Northern Iowa (5-3) in a New Year’s Eve showdown. The Salukis dropped two of three to the Panthers last season, including a 54-49 loss in St. Louis which knocked them out of the MVC Tournament. However, SIU has not lost against UNI at the SIU Arena since 1997.

Defending MVC champion Drake (6-2) comes to the SIU Arena Jan. 4 in both team’s first game of the New Year. The Bulldogs and Salukis split a pair of games last season as each team was victorious on its home court. SIU upset then-No. 14 Drake, 65-62, as the Bulldogs misfired on what would have been a game-tying 3-point shot as time expired.

SIU returns home Jan. 10 to face Evansville (5-1) in its final game before classes resume Jan. 12. The Salukis have won four of their last six games against the Purple Aces, including 10 straight at home.

One more game of note…

The Salukis travel to Wichita, Kansas to face Wichita State (3-4). SIU swept the Shockers last season with a 63-52 win at home and a 74-67 overtime victory on the road. It was the first time the Salukis were able to pick up a road win against Wichita State since 2003.

Disappointment in the Dawg Pound

By: Luis Medina

After the SIU men’s basketball team’s 66-64 loss to Charlotte on Saturday, it all became apparent to me.

The 49ers have the Salukis’ number. And to be honest, I’m not sure why.

Not only has Charlotte defeated SIU in its last four match ups, it has won two of the match ups at the SIU Arena where the Salukis are usually invincible.

Did you know Bobby Lutz’s kids are the only team to have beaten SIU in The Arena twice since the beginning of the 2001-02 season. That’s astonishing especially when you take into consideration some of the great Creighton teams that have come into the arena just to leave with a loss hanging around its neck.

And as much as the loss hurt SIU, it was felt throughout the arena as many students experienced their last game at the SIU Arena.

I would know. I spent four years as one of those nutty fans. Defeats such as Saturday’s two-point loss are hard to swallow.

A friend of mine told me he sat in the Dawg Pound, shocked by the Salukis defeat, until the cleaning crews asked him to leave. Another student told me it wasn’t the way he wanted his last game as a Dawg Pound member to end. A third was disappointed the loss came against a team that entered the game with a 1-6 record, as he could understand if SIU would have lost to what they would have considered a better team.

All three told me they will continue to follow Saluki basketball and plan on returning to one of the most boisterous student sections in the country.

They heckled opponents as mercilessly as they cheered their favorite players in the home whites.

Unfortunately, their efforts weren’t enough to shake Charlotte forward An’Juan Wilderness as he sank a pair of free-throws with four seconds left to push the 49ers past SIU.

Ending their time as SIU Dawg Pound members with what us sports writer folks would consider a tragic ending.

Defense by the numbers

By Luis C. Medina

First, I’d like to reintroduce the Beyond the Stat Sheet blog, where numbers matter. Important statistics will be highlighted in bold-faced type.

Now, on to business.

Coming into its game against Saint Louis University, the SIU men’s basketball team struggled on the defensive end. It was coming off three straight losses in which its opponents (Duke, UCLA & Western Kentucky) averaged 79.6 points per game. It looked as if “Floorburn U” was a blip in the rearview mirror, but the Salukis stepped up their game and took it to the Billikens.

Granted, the SLU offense isn’t going to be confused with the Harlem Globetrotters as it averages only 56.2 points per game, but it is encouraging that SIU was able to shutdown its L-squared offensive attack led by guards Kevin Lisch and Tommie Liddell III.

Lisch and Liddell average 14.2 and 12.8 points per game, respectively, and they got theirs Tuesday night. But Chris Lowery’s bunch shut down their teammates, holding the Billikens almost 8 points below their season average.

Prior to the Salukis’ match up against SLU, they had allowed opposing offenses to average 72.8 points per game. A far cry from past SIU squads that were defending teams as soon as they got into Carbondale city limits. By only allowing 48 points to the Billikens, it dropped its opponents PPG four points as it allowed 24.8 points less than it had allowed coming into the game.

And while the SIU offense isn’t going to drop a hunny (or a hundred for those of you grammatically inclined) on its opponents, keeping its opponents off the scoreboard is as important as scoring.

I know my classic saying is “You can’t win if you don’t score”, but you can’t win if the other team scores more than you do.