Saturday, February 14th, 4PM
Radio: Big Sports 590 AM or Bigsports590.com
TV:ESPN2 (Cox ch. 30 in Omaha)
The Jays take a 5 game winning streak into Carbondale to face their rival Southern Illinois on of all days Valentine’s Day. Here are the storylines for Southern Illinois since the last amazing comeback win against them in Omaha.
- SIU has lost 4 out of their last 6 games and got destroyed by Northern Iowa on Wednesday night 81-55.
- Amazingly, SIU has lost 4 home games this season which is almost unheard of in recent years.
- The Saluki’s are down to 8 active players with a few players leaving the team as the season has gone on and their senior leader Bryan Mullins is now out for the season with a foot injury.
- Creighton hasn’t won in Carbondale since 2001 and lost the last 7 straight there.
- Southern Illinois is seriously looking at a possible losing season for the first time since the 1997-98 season.
Over the past couple of weeks, these two teams have been going in opposite directions. Southern Illinois has really been struggling and not looking like the SIU teams of the past. The Jays on the other hand have won 5 in a row and really looking like a team that has finally come together peaking at the right time.
The Jays have a perfect opportunity to finally get a win in Carbondale that has been so elusive the past 7 years. However, rivalries are rivalries and the game is being showcased on ESPN2, so I’m sure this game will once again come down to the wire. Saluki fans have a great hate for Creighton and have been talking all week about the new shirts to welcome the Jays in.
Then to add a little fuel to the Jays fire, Tom Shatel from the Omaha World Herald this week had a column in the same published day as the win against Bradley and you would think that he has been living in a cave over the past few weeks bringing up things that were relavent about a month ago. He tried to explain himself a little bit on an Unsportsmanlike Conduct interview, but I still don’t really understand why this was discussed now. He talks about how there are not players on the Jays team that will do the little things anymore, however, I think this team has really come around and there are several players now that know their roles and will do what is needed of them. You don’t win 5 games in a row for nothing.
Now as we look forward to the Valentines Day Massacre at SIU Arena, the Salukis are being led by a lot of newcomers this year. Freshman Kevin Dillard has assumed the duty of leading the team in scoring and Sophomore Justin Bocot had a career high in scoring against Missouri St. last week. There were some words between Cavel Witter and Dillard after the last matchup, so I am sure each team will be pretty fired up.
The team contribution to the Jays wins the past few games have been key during this streak. With balanced scoring and different players stepping up, the Jays, I am sure are ready for this game. Earlier this season, I would expect a loss in this game, but I am now convinced that the Jays know about the only way to make the NCAA tournament is to basically win out and the opportunity to push SIU towards a losing season is probably a good motivator too.
This one will be a physical, beat ’em up, dragout affair and the Jays will overcome the adversity of the pressure of playing in front of the country and the rude & crude Carbondale crowd to get a win at the end.
Prediction: Jays 69, Southern Ilinois 65