Salukis hit three-game losing streak after 7-0 season start

Anthony+Avanzo+dunks+a+shot+during+the+SIU+vs.+North+Dakota+game+Friday%2C+Dec.+18%2C+2020%2C+at+the+SIU+Bantera+Center+in+Carbondale+Ill.+SIU+won+with+a+final+score+of+62+to+50.

Monica Sharma | @mscli_cks

Anthony Avanzo dunks a shot during the SIU vs. North Dakota game Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, at the SIU Bantera Center in Carbondale Ill. SIU won with a final score of 62 to 50.

After a 7-0 start to their season, the best start seen from the program in over seven decades, the Saluki men’s basketball team (7-3, 1-3 MVC) has hit a three-game losing streak. 

SIU went 6-0 in their first games of the season, upsetting the University of Butler, 76-73, as well as other non-conference opponents, and gaining their first Missouri Valley Conference win against the University of Evansville on Dec. 21. 

“It gives you a sense of really good confidence. We’ve always come in with the winning mentality, so I feel like it wasn’t a surprise to us,” sophomore guard Steven Verplancken said.

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Since then, the Salukis lost their second matchup against the Aces, 84-72, and were swept by the still-undefeated Drake University Bulldogs, 73-55 on Jan. 3 and 86-55 on Jan. 4. 

Southern’s offense proved a powerful force for their early success, with sophomore guard Marcus Domask and sophomore guard Ben Harvey leading SIU’s scoring efforts.

Domask averaged 16.3 points per game or PPG and Harvey averaged 11.7 PPG. Domask was a constant leading scorer in many of the games.

Some other consistent leading scorers for SIU were senior forward Anthony D’Avanzo, sophomore guard Lance Jones and freshman guard Dalton Banks.  

The Salukis secured their first win of seven against Southeast Missouri on Dec. 2.

SIU forced an overtime against SEMO after overcoming an 11-point deficit at the end of the second half, winning 87-79.

Domask, Harvey, Banks and D’Avanzo all scored double digits during this game. 

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“It’s a really great feeling just knowing all the hard work our team put in through the summer and through the preseason is all paying off,” D’Avanzo said.

Another big win for Southern was the upset against Butler with a 76-73 victory. In this game the Salukis broke the Bulldogs’ non-conference home court winning streak, which was the longest in the nation.

SIU held Butler nearly scoreless at the end of the first half, going on a 26-5 scoring run. The Salukis led at halftime and kept that lead until the end.

Domask and sophomore guard Trent Brown were the high scorers, Domask with a game high of 26 points and Brown with a career high of 21 points.

The winning streak ended with a loss against the University of Evansville Aces, the Salukis lost in the second game of the doubleheader.

“[In] game one, the energy wasn’t as hot but we still pulled it off and game two, the energy was down again,” Verplancken said. 

The Aces knocked down a school record of 17 3-pointers and went 10-for-11 from the 3-point line in the second half of the game.

“I think that second game is about teams that play with the most energy right off the bat and teams that are ready to go,” Saluki head coach Byran Mullins said. 

The loss against Evansville was followed by two losses in a doubleheader against the undefeated Drake University Bulldogs.

“I think we need more work in playing as hard as we can every possession of every game […]. Being connected on defense, we do a good job of it overall but if we could get to the point where we do it all the time, we could be a really elite team,” D’Avanzo said.

In the first game against the Bulldogs, Drake went on a 14-0 run late in the second half leaving Southern unable to catch up.

“We just have to be more connected and play with a greater sense of urgency and it’s the mentality that we got to have,” Mullins said.

Mullin said Drake’s pace, the maturity of their team, and defense is what makes them a good team.

Domask’s points in these games were not as high as the previous games and without his offensive efforts SIU struggled. 

“These last couple games we have taken a step back defensively and we don’t have a chance at competing at Indiana State if we don’t play well defensively,” Mullins said.

The Salukis were slated to take on the Indiana State Sycamores on Jan. 9-10, but the series was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program’s tier 1 personnel. 

Games against Valparaiso on Jan. 16 and 17 have also been postponed.

Staff reporter Janae Mosby can be reached at jmosby@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @mosbyj.

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