- Marcus Domask and the Southern Illinois Salukis (3-0) host the North Dakota Fighting Hawks (1-5) in the first of two meetings Thursday, Dec. 17 at 2:00 pm ET in Carbondale
- The Salukis are coming off a big 70-66 win over Murray State, while North Dakota went down 53-52 in heartbreaking fashion to rival North Dakota State
- Read below for odds, analysis, and best bets for this matchup
The first of back-to-back Missouri Valley-Summit contests between the Southern Illinois Salukis and North Dakota Fighting Hawks tips off in Carbondale Thursday, Dec. 17 at 2:00 pm ET.
Southern Illinois is coming off a 70-66 victory over three-time defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Murray State last Friday to remain undefeated. The Salukis got 13 points each from Marcus Domask and Anthony D’Avanzo in the win, which snapped a three-game losing streak to the Racers.
Meantime, Seybian Sims’ three-point attempt as time expired didn’t drop and North Dakota went down in heartbreaking fashion 53-52 to in-state rival North Dakota State. The loss pushed the Fighting Hawks’ record to 1-5. Now, they come into Carbondale as underdogs to the confident Salukis.
North Dakota vs Southern Illinois Odds
|North Dakota||+7.5 (-115)||+270||O 135.5 (-108)|
|Southern Illinois||-7.5 (-105)||-335||U 135.5 (-112)|
Odds as of Dec. 16th.
SIU may have some work to do to get where MVC heavyweights Loyola and Northern Iowa are (both programs are rated in Ken Pom’s top-100), but Salukis head coach Bryan Mullins was effusive in praise for his team following its win over perennial NCAA Tournament-qualifier Murray State.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said Mullins after the four-point win. “That’s a championship program (Murray State). That’s somewhere we want to be. Our guys did a great job with the ebbs and the flows of the game – not breaking.”
We do this. pic.twitter.com/nvuQSKEhRD
— Saluki Basketball (@SIU_Basketball) December 12, 2020
The smallish Salukis (the team’s average height is 6-foot-4) lost the rebounding battle by nine to the Racers and were outscored in second-chance points 15-1. But Mullins’ club made up for it on the break, pouring in a 25-9 advantage in fast break points. Sophomore guard Trent Brown also shut down Murray State star Tevin Brown, who averaged 18 points per game last year and had torched SIU each of the past two seasons. But Trent held Tevin to 1-for-7 from the field and only three points on the night. SIU’s Brown also had four assists and no turnovers.
If the Salukis put up a similar performance against the Fighting Hawks, the program — which is currently rated No. 178 by Ken Pom — could move up the ratings. They’re already in the mid-major top-25.
The 3-0 #Salukis are into the mid-major Top-25. #TrustTheWork pic.twitter.com/IcNSyvb4aJ
— Saluki Basketball (@SIU_Basketball) December 15, 2020
As for North Dakota, Paul Sather’s club is simply looking for a win. The Fighting Hawks are only 1-5 so far this season with the lone victory coming against South Dakota Dec. 10. Two of their losses came by just one point, including the last outing against the Bison.
A player to watch is Filip Rebraca. The Serbian native has led the team in scoring the last four outings, including a season-high 26 point-effort in that victory over the Coyotes.
The 6-foot-9 junior forward has an interesting story. He came to Grand Forks with no other Division I scholarship offers, but has blossomed into one of the better players at a mid-major program this season. He was on the preseason All-Summit League First Team in October after earning an honorable mention spot following last season.
Rebraca started all 32 games a year ago, leading the team and the league with 13 double-doubles. He reached double figures in 27 of the 32 games he appeared in during 2019-20 campaign, sitting second on the squad with 14.3 points per game and leading UND with 8.9 rebounds per contest. This year, he’s even better, posting 19.7 points per contest.
If Rebraca can get loose, he’s the type of talent that can take over a game.
Officials Will Have Say
The Salukis took an aggressive approach against the Racers and it worked. Southern Illinois went 21-of-26 from the free throw line, compared to Murray State’s 6-for-7 night at the charity stripe. Those points proved to be critical. How Thursday’s game is officiated may end up playing a huge factor — especially when you consider Rebraca’s ability to isolate. But the home court advantage might be too much for the Hawks to overcome.
SIU is 14-3 at home under Mullins and 19-4 in its last 23 home games. The Salukis are also riding a six-game non-conference home winning streak. UND may be competitive in this spot, but I still like SIU.
The pick: Southern Illinois -7.5 (-112)