When sophomore Joe Gilmore sank a shot in the final seconds of overtime, he secured a victory for the Salukis in the title game of the National Campus Championship Series.
The team, which has played together since the fall, won the national tournament 51-49 against Howard University on Friday.
Team members said they did not expect to do as well as they did when they traveled to Charlotte, N.C., to compete for the national title.
After regional championships qualified the eight teams that competed April 13 to 15 at Charlotte University, the clubs were divided into two pools, and the winners of each met for an eventual final series game between SIU and Howard University. Howard came into the title game with an undefeated 4-0 record, having beat the Salukis earlier in the tournament.
Patrick Colvin, club president and graduate student in human resource management from St. Louis, founded the team in 2008.
He said several members of the team have Division I experience or have played at the junior college level.
“I know a couple of us are looking to advance next year and play somewhere else,” Colvin said. “A couple of guys might go to a junior college or a Division II school, but this year has really given us a chance to get better and play against the sort of competition they might see at the next level.”
Shane Bennett, assistant director of Recreational Sports and Services, said although the club started in 2008, it remained loosely affiliated with the university until this semester. Bennett said all players and referees at the tournament were college students, and the 12 players on the SIU roster were left without an official coach, so they had to coach themselves.
“These clubs are student-ran,” Bennett said. “They offer a great opportunity to become a student leader on and off the court.”
After a brief stint playing basketball at Mid-Continent University, Gilmore, who is studying criminal justice, said he found the basketball club after he played pick-up games at the Recreation Center.
“My original intentions as a newcomer to SIU were to try and walk on to the basketball team,” Gilmore said. “Playing in these tournaments has given me the chance to keep up with my competitive streak and stick to doing what I love.”