Southern Illinois hasn’t changed much from last year. The Salukis are playing a bigger lineup, with 6-7 Matt Shaw — a player that Sampson loves — playing at the three.
While forward Randal Falker gets a lot of the pub and the points, Sampson said guard Brayn Mullins is unquestionably the team’s MVP. He’s a tough defender and paces the Salukis’ high-energy, high pressure system.
“They play a great system,” Sampson said. “You watch them play against Mississippi State, they just wore them down with their toughness.”
Sampson was happy with his team’s offensive effort against Georgia Tech.
“We did what we tried to do,” he said. “A big part of our team’s success is our ability to get to the rim off the dribble.”
Sampson believes his team’s assist numbers are down because defenses are not helping when Ellis (and Crawford, when he’s eligible) drives the net. They’re too afraid to leave Bassett and Gordon open for a shot.
“(Ellis) can’t drive to pass,” Sampson said. “He has to drive to shoot.”
Update on McGee: He had what Sampson called “a huge abscess” in his throat that had to be lanced and drained yesterday. Sampson said if the game was tonight or tomorrow, he wouldn’t be able to play. He’s not sure about Saturday.
Kelvin on the defense: “I thought last year, transition defense was a strength. It’s a weakness this year with this team.”
With Crawford out, Gordon is the backup point guard.
“That really affected us the other night,” Sampson said. “I thought we were heavy-legged coming out of the half.”
On Southern Illinois: “They’re 80-3 at home over the last few years. You look at the teams they play, there’s not a lot of ranked teams that go in there. And there’s a reason why.”
On Lance Stemler: “There was a time last year when Lance’s shot wasn’t falling and it hurt his game. This year, that’s not the case.”
“He played like a senior Tuesday night.”
On Eric Gordon: “I’ve never had a freshman as good as him. I’m not sure I’ve had a senior as good as him. He’s just a prolific scorer.”
“But there’s a lot of other things he needs to work on.”
Sampson thinks a good road team is a veteran team. Experience is what allows a team to go into a hostile gym and execute.
Kelvin Sampson will hold his weekly press conference in a few minutes. Check back for updates.