Subash Kharel | @pics.leaks
SIU men’s basketball beat Valpo 67-64 with three key free throws coming from sophomore guard Lance Jones in the final minute of the game to help the Salukis win.
The win marked the fourth-straight series in conference play that SIU (11-11, 5-11 MVC) has split the two game series dating back to their win over UNI on Jan. 31.
“I feel like we let one slip last night with a one point loss,” Jones said. “I feel like the team came out with the right mindset today.”
Valparaiso (9-16, 6-10 MVC) went on a 7-0 run to open the game with five points from sophomore forward Ben Krikke.
“We had to get stops first of all, they were scoring too easy,” head coach Bryan Mullins said.
Sophomore guard Steven Verplanckn Jr. ended the run by Valpo with a layup. Krikke added another layup to push the Valpo lead back out but was quickly answered with a layup by freshman center Kyler Filewich.
Freshman guard Dalton Banks assisted on a pass to Jones with a bounce pass through the lane to cut the Valparaiso lead down to seven.
Jones then scored four-straight points while the Saluki defense held Valpo to 17 to pull within three points at the 12:22 mark of the first half.
With a 13-4 run the Salukis were able to take their first lead of the game with sophomore guard Ben Harvey giving SIU a 23-21 lead.
Southern continued their run out to 20-5 capped with a layup by Filewich in which he was fouled, but missed the free throw as the Salukis led by six.
“We were really locked in to guard the ball better, be more physical in the post defense,” Mullins said. “Then we were able to get in transition a little bit. There was about a 10-minute stretch there in the first half where the ball was moving.”
SIU pushed out to a six point lead after a jumper by Verplancken which was answered with a layup by Valpo to cut the lead to 30-26.
Both teams were held scoreless the last five minutes of the half as Southern went to the locker room up 30-26.
“We talked about it at halftime and we all thought we got pretty good looks,” Mullins said. “I think in that first half especially I thought we executed pretty well.”
Krikke had half of the Brown and Gold’s 26 points with 13 at the half.
“Krikke got off to a fast start, we wanted to try and slow him down,” Jones said. “[We wanted to] try and take his space away, help in on Kyler.”
Valpo pulled back within one at the 18;33 mark, but a 6-0 run by the Salukis with four points coming from Filewich gave Southern the 39-31 lead.
Valpo struggled to end the SIU run with the Salukis extending their lead out to 43-33 with four points coming from Filewich on the block.
Valpo forced two turnovers which they turned into four points, Jones answered Valpo with a three-pointer to give the Salukis a 48-37 advantage.
The Salukis traded baskets with Valparaiso but led by nine after an assist from Filewich to Banks.
A steal by sophomore guard Trent Brown led to a shot by Banks where he was fouled and made one of his two free throws to give the Salukis a 60-49 lead.
The Brown and Gold pulled within six after a three-pointer by freshman guard Shelden Edwards, while the Salukis had free throws to push their lead back out they missed their first two opportunities in the final minute.
Filewich made one of his two free throw attempts to push the SIU lead back out to seven in the final minute, but Valparaiso answered with a three-pointer to cut the lead to 61-57 in the last 41 seconds.
Valpo closed to within three at the 29-second mark, and fouled Jones on the inbound pass by SIU.
Jones went to the line twice in the final 30 seconds and made three out of his four attempts to give SIU the 65-59 lead.
“Ben walked up to me and he said he believed in me,” Jones said. “So I just went up there with full confidence.”
Free throws proved to be the difference in the game as Southern went to the line 21 times, converting 13 of those attempts into points.
The Brown and Gold scored 13 points in the last 1:14 of the game to close the game to within three, but Brown and Jones’ free throws proved to be enough for SIU.
“We turned the ball over a couple times and gave them some easy layups,” Mullins said. “For us I think we could make our free throws and that separates the game a little more.”
Up next for SIU they will travel to Chicago to play Loyola for the final two games of the regular season. Tip off in Gentile Arena is set for 8pm on Friday.
Sports Reporter Adam Warfel can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.
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