Salukis drop season opener 69-66 at Arkansas Little Rock

By Cole Daily, Staff Reporter

Southern Illinois’ basketball team faced off against Arkansas at Little Rock for their first game of the 2021-2022 regular season. The Salukis surprised everyone when they lost in the final minutes, 69-66. 

Both teams started the game by getting the ball to the basket. The teams traded buckets back and forth until the first media timeout, where the score was 8-8. 

The Salukis started to gain some momentum after senior guard Ben Coupet Jr. knocked down the first three of the game. Junior forward Marcus Domask knocked down a three-pointer, which was followed by another from junior guard Ben Harvey.

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This run helped the Salukis build a 22-11 lead, forcing a timeout from the Arkansas Little-Rock coach with 12:08 left in the first half. 

Domask helped the team out of the timeout with a two-handed backdoor jam with 11:38 left in the half. SIU led 26-15 by the next media timeout. 

The Salukis threw down another slam with 4:46 left in the first half, this time by junior center Anthony D’Avanzo. This put the Salukis up 31-21. 

The Salukis and Trojans traded baskets leading into halftime. Both teams headed into the tunnel with the score 37-34, SIU on top. 

Although the Salukis were on top, the first half wasn’t without it’s struggles. SIU suffered a whopping ten turnovers in the first half, which helped Arkansas at Little Rock get back into the game. 

The Salukis started off the second half with eight turnovers in the first five minutes, which helped the Trojans jump out to a 53-44 lead. 

SIU had failed to get anything going as the second half progressed. As the announcer said at 10:37 left in the second half, “it has all gone-wrong for Southern Illinois tonight”. 

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Southern Illinois finally started to settle into the game at the 7:25 mark in the second half, where the Trojans only had a single-digit lead, 60-52. 

An and-one finish by senior guard Lance Jones made it a single possession game with 4:35 left in the game, 60-58. This was the staple moment of a 13-2 run by the Salukis. 

Jones and junior guard Steven Verplanken both knocked down clutch three-pointers to make it a one-point game with 1:23 left on the game clock. 

With 25 seconds left, Arkansas at Little Rock forced a shot-clock-violation on the Salukis, which meant they had the ball, up one, with five seconds left in the game. 

The Trojans inbounded the ball, and junior forward Jovan Stulic took the ball down the court and for a dunk as time expired, 69-66.

Jones led the way in scoring for the Salukis with 21, while Domask led the way in the assist category with four. Both players led the team in rebounds, each with five.

On the defensive side, Jones totalled three steals as well. 

The Salukis play the Austin Peay Governors this Friday, Nov. 12, for their first home game of the season. 

Sports Reporter Cole Daily can be reached at [email protected]

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