ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Goober. Pentecostal tent revival. Brad Pitt. A coach chest-bumping his players.
These are just a few of the terms and topics covered after Barry Hinson’s fourth-seeded Southern Illinois Salukis picked up a hard-earned 55-50 win over No. 5 seed Loyola (Ill.) in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, getting the Salukis to a semifinal matchup with top seed Illinois State Saturday.
The entertainment is far from over when a Southern Illinois game finishes. There aren’t many coaches in college basketball more quotable and flat-out entertaining than Hinson. It’s something well-known by those who cover the Missouri Valley. It’s not nearly well-known enough by those across the rest of the country.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that’s just a classic example how you win a ball game making your free throws down the stretch,” said Hinson, after his team won despite missing six of its final nine free throw attempts in the final minute when trying to salt the game away.
The Salukis held off Loyola on the strength of big performances by Mike Rodriguez and Sean Lloyd, who combined for 30 points. The two also contributed defensively in ways seen on the stat sheet (four steals each) and unseen, with hustle, dives and taking charges.
After the game, the two also joined their coach at the post-game press conference, where their coach proceeded to call them…well, just read.
“I’ll let you guys ask questions. I’m really happy that these two goobers are on my team, and they played well today,” said Hinson at the press conference after. “I’ll tell you everything we talked about going into this game, but I want you to talk to these guys first.”
Hinson clearly meant it in only affectionate terms, like a parent proud of their children even through their inevitable frustrating moments.
If Hinson didn’t like his players, he wouldn’t be running out to chest bump them on the floor after a huge play in a key point of the game. With 1:01 left in the game and SIU up 49-41, Rodriguez deflected the ball away, and Lloyd came from well behind a Loyola player to make a headlong dive on the floor, eventually grabbing it and calling timeout.
“Sean Lloyd’s play-Sean Lloyd-there was a guy three steps in front of him, and he came up with the ball,” Hinson noted. “And that was the play of the game.
“I know I get passionate. I know I get excited. Shoot, I ran out there like I was coming out of a Pentecostal tent revival. I was fired up. I was fired up for the Lord and fired up for Sean Lloyd. But that was a huge, huge play.
“When your guys are willing to do that and if you just sit over there and go, hey, nice dive, that isn’t going to work. They give me all they got, and I give them all I got.”
The Salukis were no offensive juggernaut against Loyola, and also got out-rebounded 44-35. What they did defensively, though, is completely shut down one of the nation’s more efficient offenses.
Loyola came in shooting 49.2% on the season, but SIU limited the Ramblers to 27.3% shooting, including a complete shutout of MVC Sixth Man of the Year Aundre Jackson, who was held scoreless while committing four turnovers.
“That was our main goal going into the game,” said Lloyd. “39.9 (percent) is what we wanted to hold the team to, and we did that today.”
“At the end of the day, if you hold teams to 27 percent, you have a really good chance of winning,” Rodriguez added.
“I think that’s what we did today, we didn’t have one of our better offensive games,” said Hinson. “But you can look at our stats. We haven’t had one of our better offensive games all year long.”
“That’s all we talked about going into this game,” Hinson said later. “Guys, what are they, eighth in the country? There’s 350 Division I programs. They’re the eighth best offensive team in the country? I mean, we were scared to death. I mean, somebody said, well, how do you beat somebody three times? How do you beat anybody one time? I mean, they’re so good.
“We told them all along, I guaranteed them, if we held them under 39 percent, we would win the game. Man, we tried to give it away at the end, but my guarantee came out right.”
There was a scare in the second half when SIU guard Armon Fletcher was involved in some contact and came off the floor with his shoulder hanging down low. Fletcher was in obvious pain at the time, but after some treatment actually returned to the game, which drew a little ribbing from his coach after.
“I thought he separated it when he came off there,” said Hinson. “I don’t know. It’s not separated. He acted like it was.
“I’m from Springfield, home of Brad Pitt. He probably had-we’ll have to wait until nominations, but he had a pretty good nomination next year for the Academy Award, I think. I don’t think it quite came out of socket, but they iced him up. He had a lot of butcher wrap on him, but I think he’ll be okay.”
Speaking of Fletcher’s chances for Fletcher to play in Saturday’s semifinal against Illinois State, Hinson said: “We’ll do like Eddie Murphy said. We’ll roll him around. We’ll get him all right, ready to go.”