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Opponents finding few cracks in SIU defense

by Chris Vannoy

SPORTS WRITER

SALEM -- While the offense gets most of the attention for No. 19 Salem, the Tigers defense has been especially stout so far this season.

SIU was second in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in scoring defense, third in field goal percentage defense and fourth in steals heading into Saturday's 98-59 win over fellow WVC member Davis & Elkins.

"We talked about points off turnovers and second-chance points," D&E coach Amrit Rayfield said. "We knew coming in that those would be two keys to the game. We knew we had to convert off of turnovers and not get forced into turnovers that they could convert.

"That's what we didn't do and it caught up."

The Salem defense was especially stingy in the first half, limiting the Senators to less than 30-percent shooting from the floor, forcing 17 turnovers and coming up with 12 steals while the offense sputtered through the first 18 minutes of the game.

By the end of the game, the Tigers had forced 24 turnovers and made off with 17 steals. Only two players for Salem failed to notch a steal in the game and SIU turned those 24 D&E turnovers into 30 points.

The Tigers also outrebounded the Senators, 46-31, with center Greg Cannon leading in the way with 8.

"That's how we play," Salem guard Chucky Fine said. "When we play in practice against each other, it's man-to-man D and just not let your man score.

"We've got a lot of pride. Everybody on the team has a lot of pride. It's not a special defense or anything."

Fine and the rest of the Tigers' quick stable of guards were responsible for the majority of the game's turnovers and steals. The group forced 20 turnovers out of the Senators' guards and was responsible for the bulk of the SIU steals in the game.

One reason for the group's thievery skills may come down to flat-out speed.

"Our quickness is something I'm really happy with," Salem coach Danny Young said. "I'm really happy with our guards. They create a lot of havoc, defensively. It's just been a pleasant surprise."

Sports writer Chris Vannoy can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at sports@exponent-telegram.com

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