The Indiana State Sycamores clung to a 1-point lead Saturday night to defeat SIU 66-65 in Terre Haute.
Sycamore junior guard Jake Odum hit the go-ahead 2-point shot with 18 seconds left to steal the lead and ultimately the game.
The Salukis (9-15, 2-11) were competitive throughout the game against the No. 2 Missouri Valley Conference team and led by as many as 12 points in the first half. The Sycamores (16-8, 9-4) remained in striking distance despite trailing late in the second half before taking the final lead.
Junior guard Desmar Jackson scored 16 points on the night and added nine of his points during a 15-3 Saluki scoring run after tipoff. SIU freshman guard Jalen Pendleton led the team with 17 points off the bench and provided a timely offensive boost in the second half’s first minutes.
Saluki sophomore post forward Dantiel Daniels had one of his best games of Valley conference play as he tallied 12 points, three assists and a block in 33 minutes of play. The sophomore big man was also the team’s second leading rebounder as he grabbed six. Four came from the offensive glass.
Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said his team wasn’t as honed into the game as they have been recently.
“Sometimes, guys aren’t going to be as locked in as they need to be and play as well as they should,” he said. “You can’t play any better than we did against Creighton (Wednesday).”
The Kendal Brown-Surles, Jeff Early and T.J. Lindsay senior guard trio struggled against the Sycamore defense. The seniors went a combined three of 11 from the field and accounted for just seven of SIU’s total points. Early finished with season-lows of two rebounds and 2 points as he battled against foul trouble toward the beginning of the game. The Salukis’ leading rebounder also struggled with an apparent leg injury and limped during stretches of the game.
The difference between the two teams came down to last-play execution.
Odum drove past SIU freshman guard Anthony Beane Jr. and two more Saluki defenders to attempt a close shot on the Sycamores’ final possession.
Lansing said it was obvious Odum would get the ball, but he still managed to make a great shot.
“Everybody here, including southern Illinois, knew he was going to make a play for himself or for one of his teammates,” Indiana State head coach Greg Lansing said. “I thought he was going to have to give up, but he made a great play. He’s a winning player.”
SIU nearly lost the ball on its final attempt, but Pendleton grabbed the loose ball and missed a jumper at the buzzer. Coach Barry Hinson said the freshman made a good hustle play but couldn’t make the tough shot.
“I thought the play (Jalen) made at the end was pretty good,” he said. “He had the gumption to go down there and make a play. He’s just not very athletic. He can’t jump up. The guy could have blocked it without jumping.”
The Salukis beat Wichita State in the SIU Arena on Tuesday, and look to add another upset to their record when they play Evansville in Carbondale on Wednesday night.
Hinson said he is encouraged and believes his team can play with just about any team.
“I don’t think we’re as bad as what everybody thinks we are,” he said. “Now, there’s a little bit of fear factor when you play us.”