The Bulls won 117-106 as all five starters scored in double figures. Jimmy Butler followed Sunday’s 40-point second half with a 32-point game on 52.4% shooting. Derrick Rose started after a three-game hiatus to put in 16 points, showing a glimpse of “Vintage Rose” with his ability to take defenders off the dribble, get to the paint and finish off the dribble.
Take away his four brutally missed 3-point attempts and his night would have been nearly flawless as he made 8 of 13 shots from the field. It’s that kind of efficiency the Bulls will need moving forward and eventually into the playoffs.
For me, the biggest takeaway is how the Bulls played down the stretch.
This team has been plagued by late-game collapses. And it seemed as if it would happen again as the Bucks cut their deficit to 1 with about a minute to play in the third quarter. Milwaukee seemingly had Chicago on the ropes at the end of the third, but not only did the Bulls hold on — they fought back. And did so with their defense.
After cutting the Bulls’ lead to 90-89 on a Giannis Antetokounmpo lay-up, the Bulls defense put the clamps on Milwaukee’s offense. From that point forward, the Bucks made only 7 of 27 field goal attempts — or 25.9% from the field.
The 117 points were pretty. But had the Bulls not found a fair share of stops during crunch time, that game could have had a different finish.
Maybe it’s the 30-second shot clock, but this is as crisp as SIU has looked in a looooong time.
SIU is 13-2 and 2-0 in the MVC. It’s the school’s best start since I was a student. Heck, it might be the best start since the generation of Salukis who saw Bruce Weber coach the team to prominence.
Much of the credit goes to the student athletes, especially the seniors and juniors who are leading the charge after three (and in some cases, four) miserable seasons prior to this one.
Several Salukis have taken their game to another level through hard work, practice and perseverance. It could have been easy to walk out as so many others have during the recent run of dismal basketball. But I feel as if the work ethic of those who have stuck it out has rubbed off on everyone else and has created a winning atmosphere.
How sustainable is it? Only time will tell. But if you’re a fan of the Salukis, you should enjoy it.
Credit is also due to head coach Barry Hinson. And what better man to do it than his most harsh critic.
I wasn’t a fan of the hire. Not was I a fan of the antics leading up to this year. But credit Hinson for keeping it together as best as he could and the fruits of his labor are starting to show. Specifically, with Anthony Beane Jr. shining in his senior season.
In the Salukis’ two MVC games, Beane has scored 58 points on 27 field goal attempts. He scored 26 on 10 shots in the game I attended at Loyola. It was the quietest 26 I’ve ever seen, mostly because his scoring came within the flow of the offense. No over-dribbling. No forced iso plays. It’s a thing of beauty.
And that’s something I’ve seen a lot more from Beane as a senior. Better shot selection has led him to become a more efficient scorer and the team has benefited from it.
Beane is shooting 49.8% from the field and 47.2% from the 3-point line. Last season, he shot 42.3% from the field and 33.3% on 3-pointers.
But back to Hinson, who not only kept his best/most important from jumping ship, he also found a point guard in Mike Rodriguez who doesn’t trip over his own two feet when trying to run an offense. The JUCO transfer has found a home in Carbondale and has settled into an integral role on the Salukis.
I’ve only been complaining about the lack of point guard play since Hinson arrived on campus. So it’s only fitting I praise him for fonally finding one who can lead a productive offense.
But don’t think I’m not still watching this team with a skeptical eye. They still have much to prove on the hardwood, while one good year from Hinson doesn’t erase the debacles of previous seasons.
However, this season could be a building block for things to come. Only time will tell.