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The Journal Gazette

Friday, December 02, 2016 2:30 pm

Pregame: Indiana (5-1) vs. SIU-Edwardsville (4-3)

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON — Injuries are the biggest variables when we look into our crystal balls and project a college basketball season. An injury to one star, such as the ankle sprain that will keep OG Anunoby off Indiana indefinitely, can have a big impact on a team's fortunes.

Fortunately for the Hoosiers, the timing is as good as can be. They only play six games between now and Christmas, and five feature mid-major competition. The only threatening opponent in that stretch, No. 18 Butler, isn't until Dec. 17.

Anunoby is the defensive key for No. 13 Indiana and (throwing out the game in Fort Wayne where he was ill) is averaging about 15 points a game. That means we'll be seeing a steady diet of James Blackmon Jr. and Thomas Bryant on offense during Anunoby's absence.

Tonight the Hoosiers welcome SIU-Edwardsville, an Ohio Valley Conference member, to Assembly Hall.

The Cougars are in just their ninth season of Division I competition. 

Here's the fun part. Second-year SIUE coach Jon Harris, an actual native of Edwardsville, Illinois, played three seasons at Marquette under Hoosiers coach Tom Crean. What's more, Harris was on Crean’s staff when Marquette reached the Final Four in 2003.

Monday night, Harris took his current team to Phoenix and got a 76-64 win at Grand Canyon, the Cougars' second true road win.

"It's very impressive," Harris said. "Our guys didn't get fazed by the environment, and it was tremendous. One of the best environments I've been in at any level."

Assembly Hall won't be as electric as it was Wednesday night for Indiana's win over No. 3 North Carolina, nor will the building be as quiet as it was during Sunday's win over Mississippi Valley State when all students weren't yet back from Thanksgiving break.

SIUE went 6-22 last season. Burak Eslik, a Turkish guard, is the leading scorer at 10.7 points per game.