CARBONDALE, ILL. —
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team struggled against Southern Illinois and was ripe for the picking during most of Saturday’s contest at SIU Arena.
As the game played out, it became a matter of whether the Salukis could take advantage of the Sycamores’ woes.
Uneasy lay SIU’s head as it tried to hold repeated leads, including a nervous final two minutes, but if the Salukis couldn’t bury the Sycamores, ISU couldn’t make SIU pay for it. The Salukis put ISU away in the final minute and the Sycamores fell 76-71.
"We deserve what we got tonight. We put on the board tonight, 'Be the more desperate and determined team.' I thought from start to finish, [SIU] was the more desperate and determined team. They wanted the win more than we did," ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
It was SIU’s first Missouri Valley Conference victory in five tries. The loss dropped ISU (10-6, 3-2) into the MVC pack and the Sycamores are two games behind MVC leader Creighton.
"We didn't have a consistent effort. You have to give credit to SIU. They had a lot of energy and they were the hungrier team. That's not us. We're usually the hungrier team," ISU forward Manny Arop said.
ISU had no answer for SIU swingman Desmar Jackson. One game after being publicly berated by SIU coach Barry Hinson, the senior scored 29 for the Salukis, including 23 in the second half.
"Our strength has been our help defense and it wasn't what it usually is and you can't bail out with fouls. Jackson shot 13 free throws tonight," Lansing said.
ISU was led by Arop’s 16 points, but the Sycamores were victimized by 19 turnovers.
"We had a ton of turnovers and we never stopped [turning it over]. It's hard to win a game that way," said ISU guard Lucas Eitel, who had 15 points for the Sycamores.
ISU also made just 6 of 23 from 3-point range, many coming in the final minute in a fruitless comeback effort.
ISU found itself behind the eight ball after a sloppy first half. SIU’s defense was pushing ISU off the top of the key and the Salukis harried ISU’s handoff spots in its motion offense. ISU failed to score on 10 of its first 11 possessions, but SIU couldn’t convert from the field and was only able to build a 7-2 lead.
SIU’s first half lead peaked at 17-12 when the Sycamores seemed to find their bearings by getting to the basket. A trio of traditional three-point plays — two by Khristian Smith and one by Jake Odum — helped ISU knot the score. Layups by R.J. Mahurin and Arop completed a 15-4 run to put ISU up 27-23 entering the final minute.
Then ISU gave it all away. After SIU’s Anthony Beane converted a three-point play to draw SIU within a point, ISU tried to play two possessions for one in the final minute, but Dawon Cummings missed a 3-pointer.
SIU (8-8, 1-4) didn’t hold the ball for the final shot. SIU’s Jalen Pendleton missed a shot, but ISU batted around the loose ball and couldn’t haul it in. Pendleton swooped, leaned in, was fouled, and the wild shot found the mark. Pendleton made the free throw, and suddenly, SIU led 29-27.
It got worse. Odum was trapped at midcourt and gave the ball up. Beane converted two more free throws to complete an unlikely 8-0 SIU run in which ISU provided a big helping hand.
"You have to make your breaks and Southern did a great job of that tonight. I can't tell you how many times we had the ball in our hands and they knocked it away. They'd get a rebound after we had a good defensive possession. They did a lot of the little things it takes to earn a tough victory," Lansing said.
The second half continued the misery. Jackson scored the first six points of the half for the Salukis as ISU had a turnover, a rushed 3-point attempt by Mahurin and another turnover to start the second half. ISU fell behind 37-27 on SIU’s 14-0 run.
As it has in several other games this season, ISU fought back despite not playing at optimum. An 8-0 ISU run cut SIU’s lead to 43-41 with 11:28 left in the half.
SIU led 64-55 with 2:52, but the Sycamores were able to make it close. ISU got within five in the final two minutes, and trailing 66-60, an opening was there for ISU when Beane was called for a technical foul for elbowing Odum on an attempted foul. But Odum missed the pair of free throws on the technical foul and ISU couldn’t convert on its subsequent possession.
Lucas Eitel made it interesting in the final seconds as he converted a pair of threes to pull ISU within five, but it wasn’t enough.
Hinson continued his mastery over the Sycamores. The former Missouri State coach now has a 16-3 all-time record against ISU.
ISU next plays host to Missouri State on Wednesday.
INDIANA STATE (71) – Arop 6-11 3-4 16, Mahurin 4-9 0-2 8, Gant 3-5 4-6 10, Brown 0-1 1-2 1, Odum 4-8 7-9 15, Kitchell 0-1 0-0 0, Eitel 5-9 0-0 15, Cummings 0-5 0-0 0, Burnett 0-0 0-0 0, K. Smith 2-6 2-2 6. 24-55 FG, 17-25 FT, 71 TP.
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (76) – Drinkard 1-2 0-0 2, Brown-Surles 0-3 2-4 2, Jackson 8-15 12-13 29, Early 2-8 3-4 7, Beane 2-7 7-9 11, Pendleton 2-5 5-7 9, Long 0-0 0-0 0, Lindsay 1-3 0-0 3, Daniels 3-3 1-2 7, Swan 2-5 2-3 6. 21-51 FG, 32-42 FT, 76 TP.
Halftime score – SIU 31-27. 3-point goals – ISU 6-23 (Eitel 5-9, Arop 1-5, Cummings 0-3, Mahurin 0-2, Odum 0-2, Brown 0-1, K. Smith 0-1), SIU 2-9 (Jackson 1-3, Lindsay 1-2, Brown-Surles 0-3, Beane 0-1). Rebounds – ISU 34 (K. Smith 7, Arop 6, Gant 5, Odum 5, Eitel 3, Cummings 3, Team 3, Mahurin 2), SIU 36 (Early 13, Jackson 8, Beane 6, Drinkard 2, Lindsay 2, Swan 2, Pendleton, Daniels, Team), Assists – ISU 13 (Odum 6, Cummings 4, Eitel), SIU 6 (Brown-Surles 4, Pendleton, Lindsay), Steals – ISU 4 (Arop 2, Gant, Odum), SIU 9 (Jackson 3, Early 3, Brown-Surles 2, Lindsay), Blocks – ISU 1 (Gant), SIU 1 (Swan), Turnovers – ISU 19 (Arop 3, Gant 3, Brown 3, Odum 3, Eitel 2, Cummings 2, K. Smith 2, Mahurin), SIU 15 (Brown-Surles 4, Jackson 4, Beane 2, Daniels 2, Drinkard, Early, Pendleton), Total fouls – ISU 27, SIU 21. Fouled out – Brown, Gant, Technical foul – Beane. A – 5315.
Next – ISU (10-6, 3-2) plays host to Missouri State on Wednesday. SIU (8-8, 1-4) plays at Bradley on Tuesday.