Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz
Southern defeated Bradley 73-63 in the first game of Arch Madness behind 24 points from sophomore guard Ben Harvey.
The Salukis will now match up against one-seeded Loyola tomorrow, March 5, for the third time this season with tip-off set for 11 am.
In their last matchup on Feb. 27 SIU forced overtime against the Ramblers, as sophomore guard Lance Jones put up 30 points.
The Salukis will be without sophomore forward Marcus Domaks and could also be without Jones in their matchup tomorrow, as he went out six minutes into the first half with a foot injury and never returned.
“When one of our best players go down, it’s next man up,”Harvey said. “We all believe in each other day in and day out.”
In their weekend matchup against Loyola last week, SIU lost both games by less than 10, forcing overtime in the second game.
Across those two games, Harvey accounted for two points, while the Salukis as a team had 38 turnovers.
“I definitely could play better myself. It’s just playing team ball and doing what we do,” Harvey said. “We felt like we should have at least split when we went to Chicago.”
Even though Loyola swept the season series against Southern, the Salukis don’t mind being an underdog against the top team in the conference.
“We have great confidence going into tomorrow’s game,” Harvey said. “We look forward to this matchup, we think we can beat them. They’re a great team, great coach, great players.”
With or without Jones in the lineup tomorrow, the Salukis will not be without confidence against the Ramblers.
“Loyola won the conference and we felt like we should have at least split,” Harvey said. “Playing the number one team and taking them into overtime and feeling as if we should have won gave us great confidence going in. We’re looking at just building on that throughout the tournament and taking it game by game.”
Loyola has won the conference the last three years in the regular season, but despite having not won a conference tournament since 2006, SIU has championship-caliber players.
“You know that experience definitely helps. That’s why Coach [Mullins] recruits championship players and people that have won championships and know how to win,” Harvey said.
Loyola was ranked 20 in the last Associated Press poll, and they are in that spot based off of how they have played all season.
“I think we’ll be ready, they’re a terrific team. They’re top-25 for a reason, they’re very well coached, they do all the right things,” freshman guard Dalton Banks said. “We’ve just got to come and match their energy and play as hard as we can.”
If Jones is indeed out for tomorrow’s game, Southern will need a player to step up in his place. Harvey scored 24 points for the Salukis with Jones on the bench today, and he could fill in for Jones.
“When he’s aggressive and he’s playing downhill like that with really good pace on both sides of the ball that’s when he’s had his best games this year,” SIU head coach Bryan Mullins said.
Jones did go to get X-rays on his foot after the game against Bradley, so his status for the Loyola game is still undecided.
“He’s getting an x-ray right now so we will see. Obviously Lance is a tough kid, if it was a minor sprain he probably would have came back and tried to play,” Mullins said.
After the win against Bradley, Mullins had a little bit of time to think about the matchup against Loyola.
“Thought about in the last 10 to 15 minutes since after the game, trying to get the head wrapped around we got another game,” Mullins said.”Whatever it is 16 hours, 15 hours against one of the best teams in the country. It is a great opportunity for our program.”
SIU has had their fair share of challenges this season, with two pauses because of positive COVID-19 tests and the loss of sophomore forward Marcus Domask due to injury.
“Our guys have responded every single time there has been a challenge this year, no doubt they’ll be ready to go at 11am tomorrow.”
SIU lacks Arch Madness experience with the whole team totaling 62 minutes in the tournament, whereas Loyola has two seniors in Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson who both were a part of the 2018 final four run.
“One of the positives of a series, during the league is there’s been some short turnarounds,” Mullins said. “Arch Madness is special even though there’s limited fans, it still felt like college basketball again. If you’re not ready to play against a top 25 in Arch Madness then you probably shouldn’t be playing college basketball.”
Sports Reporter Adam Warfel can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.
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