TERRE HAUTE —
As they did in a 76-71 victory in Carbondale, Ill. on Jan. 12, SIU’s drivers gave the Sycamores fits. Freshman Jalen Pendleton was chief among them. He had 17 points. One of his few misses was SIU’s final shot at the buzzer. SIU’s Desmar Jackson added 16 for the Salukis.
“We should’ve won the ball game,” SIU coach Barry Hinson said. “I know we’re the doormat, but no one scares me in the league … we scare us. I don’t think we’re as bad as what everyone thinks we are.”
The game began to creep in ISU’s direction with 5:34 left. Down 55-49, Mahurin conjured his sixth-career four-point play to cut SIU’s lead to two. It was a play that came seemingly out of nowhere and one that ISU badly needed.
Though SIU answered with points on its three possessions, Mahurin’s shot tightened the gap at a crucial moment.
When Dawon Cummings missed a free throw with 3:13 left – ISU made just 10 of 18 in the second half and 60 percent overall – it paradoxically worked in the Sycamores’ favor. ISU tracked down the rebound and Odum tied the game with a runner at 3:05 to make it 59-all.
But finishing the Salukis off was never going to be easy. After Kendal Brown-Surles hit a 3-pointer at 2:35, Mahurin drained a 3-pointer from the corner to tie it again. ISU got over the top to take a 64-62 on a pair of Odum free throws with 1:30 left.
But the Salukis had no quit in them. Pendleton converted a traditional three-point play with 1:09 left to put SIU back up 65-64. And when Mahurin missed a 3-pointer with 53 seconds left, it appeared the Salukis held the better winning hand.
But Mahurin kept his wits. When SIU’s Anthony Beane Jr. drove the lane with 35.9 seconds left, Mahurin stood his ground and drew a charge that gave ISU the ball back without having to foul.