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Southern Illinois Salukis vs. Bradley Braves - 2/18/14

Bradley Braves (11-16) at Southern Illinois Salukis (10-17)

College Basketball: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 8:05 pm (SIU Arena)

The Line: Southern Illinois Salukis -7 -- Over/Under: TBA See the Latest Odds

TV: None

The Southern Illinois Salukis host the Bradley Braves on Tuesday night in Carbondale, Illinois, as the two teams are tied at 6-8 in the league standings.

Despite losing 2 straight, Southern Illinois should feel good about the way they played at the top 2 teams’ venues last week. They led for a good part of Tuesday’s bout at Wichita State before the Shockers proved too much, and then came just short of an upset at Indiana State on Saturday 60-57. Prior to those games, they had won 4 games in a row and have a 4-3 home record in conference games. Desmar Jackson has been the most consistent player on the team this season with 19.4 points per game and is the assist leader (59 assists) and 2nd in rebounds (5.3 boards per game). Sophomore guard Anthony Beane has blossomed nicely this season and even more of late as he’s been the hottest player in the league over the last few weeks. He scored 18 points on Saturday, which ended 5 consecutive games with 20+ points. He comes in at 13.6 ppg, while fellow sophomore guard Jalen Pendleton helps out with 9.9 points per game. There is not much scoring help other than these 3 players, as some younger guys have had some trouble adjusting to the college game. The Salukis are a decent rebounding team (+1.6), but need to get better on the free-thow line (65.6%). Head coach Barry Hinson (2nd season with the Salukis) has this team gelling right now for what he has to work with.

Southern Illinois Salukis vs. Bradley Braves - 2/18/14

Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile Bradley has sputtered in its last 2 games, as they had a golden opportunity to rise to the top half of the conference against Indiana State on Wednesday, but shot poorly from the field and at the line, and even so, only lost by 6. They followed that up with a 70-54 loss to their rival Illinois State, which evened out the season series as the Braves’ pounded the ‘Birds a couple weeks prior. Bradley only shot 35% for the game and connected on just 13 of 23 free throws. The Braves shoot 42% from the field, 32% on three-pointers, and shoot free throws at 69%. Senior slasher Walt Lemon Jr. is the leading scorer with 17.8 ppg and is 2nd in conference games at nearly 20 ppg. He has 106 assists, which is 3 times more than the 2nd Brave in total assists. With only 4 players averaging 5 ppg or more, the offense is inconsistent and has relied heavily on 3-4 starters to get the job done.

This is actually a pretty big game for both teams – for SIU, they need to keep playing like they have over the last 3 weeks to end the conference season on a high note and possibly stay out of the Thursday play-in game for the conference tournament. As for Bradley, they need to establish some kind of consistency winning away from Peoria, with just 1 road win this season. They had been playing their best ball prior to the last 2 disappointing games, and a win would get them feeling good heading into the homestretch – also with the chance to stay out of the Thursday play-in game. Considering the home/away records between these teams, I am leaning toward the Salukis and Bradley has not typically played well at SIU in the past 10-15 years. The Braves won the 1st meeting by 6, so I look for SIU to exact revenge and win by about the same amount. I think Bradley’s morale has sunk back down too. I don't like the line, but it's about right for this game, so unless it drops to 6 points or fewer for the home team, I will stay away from this one.

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