Nov 13, 2011, 10:10 AM EDT
Southern Illinois couldn’t be further from its 2007 Sweet 16 run. Losing one’s opener to a D-II team will do that.
A 64-63 loss to Ohio Dominican is the latest setback for the Salukis and coach Chris Lowery, who were the class of the Missouri Valley barely five years ago. But the ensuring seasons have brought just one winning record, hardly what officials expected when they gave Lowery a seven-year extension at $750,000 per year.
Lowery didn’t see this coming, either. He was “pleased” with his team’s effort and concentration entering the opener and with good reason. Ohio Dominican was just 6-20 last season. But the Salukis are hardly any better off, returning two starters from last year. Also, they didn’t have forward Antonio Bryer and guard Kendal Brown-Surles Saturday.
“They played hard and they executed on us, and when we turned it over, they made us pay. And that’s the key. We gotta convert,” Lowery told The Southern.
This just adds to Lowrey’s woes.
His once-proud defense is average, he can’t catch a break in recruiting and the Valley is hardly a place where a struggling program can recover without a serious makeover. Creighton, Wichita State, Northern Iowa and Missouri State are all vying for NCAA tournament bids. Indiana State’s right there. And the next easy road game in the Valley will be the first one.
Financial constraints will likely ensure Lowery finishes out his contract. Until then, might need to get used to seeing the Salukis in this position.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.
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