Game MVP - Xavier Keeling. Yes, A.J. Ratliff scored 14 points and Earl Calloway did a good job keeping SIU from getting into its offense. But Keeling's contributions were critical. Keeling finished with six points, one rebound, one block and a steal in a season-high 15 minutes, nearly equaling the 17 minutes he'd played in the first eight games combined. Probably most impressive, though, was that Indiana outscored Southern Illinois 33-14 when Keeling was on the floor, and was outscored by the Salukis 33-24 when he wasn't. Keeling entered in the first half in an effort to get a more physical presence on SIU leading scorer Matt Shaw. By the time he left the game five minutes later, an 11-5 SIU lead was gone and the game was tied 13-13. Then in the second half, Keeling entered at the 11:23 mark with IU trailing 34-32. With him on the floor, IU went on a 25-12 run over the next 10 minutes to put the game away. Keeling kept Shaw from getting the easy opportunities driving to the basket that he got early on, and he was the point man on a 1-3-1 Indiana zone that befuddled SIU midway through the second half.
Biggest Surprise… Indiana earned 31 trips to the free-throw line and drew 27 fouls against Southern Illinois. Getting to the charity stripe hasn't been a strength of this year's team, but IU managed to give itself plenty of chances Sunday night. That was a point of emphasis for Sampson entering the game, which was a big reason why Joey Shaw earned the start over Rod Wilmont or A.J. Ratliff. Shaw looked to penetrate a couple of times early and picked up fouls each time, and the rest of the team followed suit. Ratliff and Bassett got to the line thanks to drives into the lane, while Lance Stemler and Xavier Keeling got to the line courtesy of hitting the offensive boards and/or attacking the rim when they got the ball down low. Indiana's 61.3 percent free-throw shooting (19-of-31) wasn't anything to celebrate, but it did make nine of its last 10 attempts in the game's final 10 minutes.
What I Found Most Impressive… Indiana was able to limit its turnovers against a very good and aggressive SIU defense. Saluki guards Bryan Mullins and Jamaal Tatum hounded Earl Calloway and the other IU guards the length of the floor just about every time they handled the ball, but Calloway managed to play 29 turnover-free minutes. Indiana turned the ball over only 11 times, and the three players who handled the ball most – Calloway, Armon Bassett and A.J. Ratliff – combined for only two turnovers in 83 minutes while handing out three assists apiece. Turnovers were a huge problem for Indiana early on this season, and that was often time against defenses that rarely pressured the ball the way SIU did. But the Hoosiers managed to avoid the sort of turnovers that would have resulted in easy opportunities for the Salukis and ultimately emerged victorious.
What I Found Most Concerning… After putting together a huge game against Southern Illinois, D.J. White struggled, scoring eight points and turning the ball over four times in 36 minutes. SIU forward Randal Falker is a good athlete who kept White from getting the ball where he wanted it, and when White did get his hands on the ball, SIU generally brought the double team. The result was a total of six shots from White (after getting 19 against Kentucky) and a frustrating evening for IU's leading scorer. While SIU's defense had a lot to do with White's limited opportunities, there were occasions where White could have gotten off high-quality shots if he'd been quicker to make his move before the double team arrived – something he did against Kentucky. But he wasn't able to do that against a very good SIU defense.
Turning Point: After a television timeout, Indiana went with a 1-3-1 zone with about eight minutes left in the second half, and that helped produce a 12-0 IU run that turned a 39-39 game into a 51-39 IU lead with 3:32 left. Keeling was the point man on the zone, while Earl Calloway patrolled the baseline and was responsible for getting out on SIU's shooters if they got the ball in the best place to combat that zone – in the corner. The Salukis missed three straight shots, guard Jamaal Tatum turned it over three times, and Indiana put together the game-changing run it needed to come away with a critical victory.
Quotable: "They made it tough to make a catch anywhere on the floor. That's what we usually do to others, and they flipped it on us." - SIU Coach Chris Lowery.
"It was good, smash mouth basketball, and they had a little bit more than end." – SIU Coach Chris Lowery.
"Where we've gotten better as the year's gone on is defending through some adversity. We had a lot of shots that could have gone in, but we never stopped defending." – IU Coach Kelvin Sampson.
"Watching Southern Illinois play, you can see why Wichita State wins at Syracuse, or why Wichita State wins at LSU. Those teams are good...some people predict who is going to win based on the name on the jersey. Those Southern Illinois kids are tough." – IU Coach Kelvin Sampson.
"We tell every guard, ‘you're a starter.' We're just going to go with who's on. I thought Earl had his best back-to-back games. I thought he was good against Kentucky, and I thought he was really good tonight. That's what I've been looking for – some consistency. I don't judge how a kid by his statistics. I judge a kid by how hard he's competing, how hard he's playing." – IU Coach Kelvin Sampson.
Random Thoughts: Lance Stemler's struggles continued, going 0-for-4 from the field. Over the last two games, Stemler is 0-of-11 from the floor, including 0-of-7 from behind the 3-point arc. Stemler did contribute five rebounds Sunday, though, giving him 13 in his last two games…Sampson said the decision to start Calloway, Bassett, Shaw, D.J. White and Stemler in the second half was in an effort to get the players he believes are best off the dribble on the floor. That helped produce 20 second-half free throws for IU…Indiana attempted a season-low 12 3-pointers, knocking down six of them.
Upon Further Review - Southern Illinois
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