Thus ends the regular season: MSU swipes final Valley win from Southern

By Tamar Mosby, Sports Editor

Regular season play for the SIU men’s basketball team ended this afternoon with a 84-59 loss to Missouri State University.

The Bears took the lead early in the first half and held it for the remainder of the game, extending it to a margin as large as 30 points.

This evening’s matchup was Southern’s third-straight conference loss and the Salukis now sit in the fifth place position in the MVC.

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After their seven-game win streak was snapped by Valparaiso University on Feb. 12, Southern Illinois has hit quite the rough patch, winning only one of their last five conference games and dropping three positions in MVC ranking.

Saluki freshman guard Lance Jones had a career high performance this afternoon despite the SIU loss. He was the team’s top scorer with 28 points and one of only two Southern players in double-digit scoring; freshman guard Trent Brown was the other with 10 points.

Scoring for the Bears was spread evenly throughout the roster with senior forward Kabir Mohammed recording the top performance with 15 points and seven rebounds. Mohammed had four other teammates join him in double digit scoring: junior forward Gaige Prim (14), senior forward Tulio Da Silva (13), senior guard Keondre Cook (13) and senior forward Lamont West (11).

Southern struggled from the arc and in rebounding this afternoon, shooting at only 19% to MSU’s 55.6% and snatching down 20 rebounds to the Bears’ 37.

The Bears opened the game with a 5-2 scoring run that allowed them to take an early 11-5 lead over Southern.

Three free throws from sophomore guard Harwin Francois and two from redshirt freshman guard Karrington Davis helped the Salukis decrease the deficit to two points. 

After these free throws, SIU ran into trouble on the offensive end as Missouri State took off on a 6-2 scoring run that was led by Mohammed. The run extended the Bears lead to 10 points at 24-14.

The Salukis were able to cut the lead down to just three points after hitting a 6-2 scoring run of their own. Jones led the charge with five points scoring three of Southern’s six baskets.

Four unanswered baskets from MSU, two of which were 3-pointers, on the following possessions stifled SIU’s comeback efforts and pushed the score to 38-25 with just under two minutes left to play.

The first period ended with two consecutive Saluki baskets from Brown and senior guard Eric McGill. These baskets kept SIU within reach of the Bears, but they still trailed 39-31.

At halftime, Mohammed was leading Missouri State in scoring and rebounding with 12 points and four boards, while Jones was the leader for Southern with 10 points. Both players were the only members of their teams in double-digit scoring during this time.

Mohammed and Jones were the first players to score in the second half with Mohammed tipping in a basket down low and Jones scoring on a three-point conversion play.

The Bears remained consistent on offense, scoring nearly every possession down the court, while Jones appeared to be the only player in rhythm for SIU. 

MSU continued to outscore Southern offensively, going on a 9-3 scoring run. Jones scored all three of the Salukis’ baskets during the run.

Fouls and turnovers continued to get the best of SIU as the Bears were sent to the charity stripe nine times in the second half alone. 

 Missouri State didn’t miss the opportunity to capitalize on points from free shots and they made 15-of-18 shots at the line.

Jones remained the only player in double-digits and Southern’s sole means of scoring. This was no match for the Bears’ well-balanced roster, who had five different players with double-digit scoring stats.

A 3-pointer from Cook brought the Bears lead to 30 points over Southern Illinois, 84-54, with just over a minute left to play.

The game ended with a final 3-pointer from Brown, but the basket stood futilely against the massive Missouri State lead and the Bears walked away with an 84-59 win. 

The Salukis will take the court again in St. Louis, Mo. for the annual Arch Madness Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The date of Southern’s first game in the tournament has yet to be determined.

Sports editor Tāmar Mosby can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @mosbytamar.

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