Southern Illinois Preview

From the looks of it, the Arizona State Sun Devils have gotten it out of their system. They were understandably disappointed when they were left out of the NCAA Tournament but coasted in round one of the NIT and will face the Southern Illinois Salukis in the second round on Thursday night.

The Sun Devils channeled their anger from being snubbed by the NCAA Tournament and decided to take it out on overwhelmed Alabama State Hornets squad in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night with a 64-53 victory.

James Harden led the way with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Ty Abbott had 15 points and Eric Boateng was a force with 8 points and 10 rebounds. The game was a tale of two halves as the Sun Devils led by as much as 21 in the first half but the second half was a different story as the Hornets picked up the defensive intensity and cut the lead to 8 at one point before Harden and Co. put the visiting ASU away for good.

While the sting of the snub still lingers, the Sun Devils avoided a letdown against Alabama State and are taking advantage of having the opportunity to play postseason basketball and in their home arena no less. With a win over Southern Illinois, ASU will receive a third and final home game against the winner of Florida and Creighton.

Head Coach – Chris Lowery

Projected Starters

PG – Tyrone Green – (5.6 PPG, 1.6 APG)
SG – Wesley Clemmons – (6.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG)
SF – Josh Bone – (8.0 PPG, 34% 3PT)
PF – Matt Shaw – (12.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG)

C – Randal Falker – (12.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG)

Impact Reserves

G – Dion Coopwood
F – Carlton Fay
F – Christian Cornelius
C – Tony Boyle


Southern Illinois will be playing without their star point guard Bryan Mullins who is out for the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his left tibia. Mullins averaged 10 points and over five assists a game and his leadership will be missed. Replacing him will be Tyrone Green and joining him in the backcourt will be Wesley Clemmons and Josh Bone.

Offensively speaking, this is not a proven backcourt with the subtraction of Mullins but defense is another story. The Salukis are allowing a paltry 59.6 points per game. The Sun Devils will try to break the Saluki defense with Derek Glasser leading the charge and Ty Abbott and James Harden on the wings.

Glasser and Abbott played well in the Alabama State win but Harden took his game to another level. In the first half, he was a bit quiet as Abbott went off for 15 first half but in the second half when the whole team struggled to score, Harden once again took the team on his shoulders and cemented the win with 25 hard earned points.

Solid Edge – Arizona State


Southern Illinois is going to rely even more on their talented post players, Matt Shaw and Randal Falker, even more now that Mullins is sidelined. Falker, a first-team All-MVC performer, is the leading scorer and rebounder and will be a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the floor. Shaw has a more balanced game than Falker but is still quite physical and will give smaller ASU defenders trouble.

For the Sun Devils, Jeff Pendergraph and Rihards Kuksiks will get the nod down low. Pendergraph struggled with fouls against Alabama State while Kuksiks probably thought the rim was locked as he failed to capitalize on easy opportunities. If Pendergraph can contain Falker on defense and stay out of foul trouble, he should be able to balance his inside game and his mid-range game to stretch out the Salukis.

Slight Edge – Southern Illinois


With the absence of Mullins, the Salukis had to take Green off the bench and insert him into the starting lineup which almost depletes their backcourt depth but they do have some big boys underneath that can spell Falker and Shaw in Fay, Cornelius, and Boyle. For ASU, Jamelle McMillan and Antwi Atuahene relieve the backcourt while Jerren Shipp and Eric Boateng help out down low. Boateng has really improved as the season has progressed and is slowly becoming a steady contributor off the bench.

Slight Edge – Arizona State

Final Score – Arizona State 56 Southern Illinois 54

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