Saluki Men’s Basketball use second half surge to down Austin Peay 73-55 in Home-Opener

Dalton+Banks%283%29+jumps+with+the+ball+in+front+of+Chinedu+Kingsley+Okanu+%2811%29+during+the+SIU+vs+Northern+Iowa+basketball+game.+Jan.+31%2C+2021%2C+at+the+SIU+Bantera+Center+in+Carbondale%2C+Ill.+

Subash Kharel | @pics.leaks

Dalton Banks(3) jumps with the ball in front of Chinedu Kingsley Okanu (11) during the SIU vs Northern Iowa basketball game. Jan. 31, 2021, at the SIU Bantera Center in Carbondale, Ill.

By Joseph Bernard and Ryan Scott, Staff Reporter/Sports Editor

Saluki Men’s Basketball (1-1) returned to the Banterra Center for their first home game Friday night. SIU struggled in the first half, but ultimately came out on top with a 73-55 victory over Austin Peay (1-1).

The Salukis were highlighted by three double digit point performances in junior point guards Lance Jones and Steven Verplancken and junior forward Marcus Domask.

Jones led the team in points with all of his 22 points coming in the second half. Jones went 8-12 on field goals and led in steals with two. He also tied for the lead in assists with three and tallied two rebounds for himself. Verplancken put up 14 points, going 6-8 on field goals for the night. He also led the team in minutes played with 36 and put up three rebounds and an assist. Domask had 15 points tonight, going 5-7 on field goals, while putting up five rebounds, three assists, and a steal.

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Also worth mentioning would be senior guard Ben Coupet and junior forward J.D Muila. Coupet and Muila shared the lead for rebounds on the night, with both of them tallying eight to go with the seven points they both put up. Coupet two assists and a steal on top of that while going 3-7 on field goals, with Muila going 3-4 on field goals.

The Salukis had a rough go to start things off and found themselves down 14-7 only five minutes into the game, but an 11-2 Saluki run put them up by two at 18-16 halfway through the first half. It was back-and-forth the rest of the first half, with neither team gaining a lead more than three. A last minute push by Ausin Peay set up a three point shot by freshman Caleb Stone-Carrawell with 24 seconds left and the Governors took the lead going into the second half at 27-25.

The Second half didn’t really start out the best either for the Salukis, but that’s when Jones started his run. Down by four early in the second half, Jones and Domask highlighted a 26-7 second half run for the Salukis to give them an insurmountable lead midway through the second half. Their lead grew as much as 19 at one point. A dunk by Domask with less than four minutes to go put an exclamation point on the second half run that gave SIU the win at 73-55.

The run simply came down to SIU not missing their shots. Southern went 18-28 on second half field-goals. Domask said the team fixed some of their shooting decisions from last game against Little Rock.

“We moved the ball well, we didn’t take contested threes. I thought in the last game against Arkansas Little Rock we took some contested threes that just weren’t good shots for our offense. But tonight we didn’t really take any of those, I think the stats showed,” Domask said.

The game was only the second for Domask since coming off of his injury that made him miss most of the season last year. He said some nerves were still there with him, but Coach Mullins ultimately calmed his nerves.

“I think I was a little timid at the start of the game and passed up on some shots. Coach talked to me about how they were closing out and stuff like that. So I just kind of let the game flow to me and listen to the coaches,” Domask said.

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Coach Bryan Mullins loved the great shooting percentage from the team, but said they could still improve in other areas.

“I thought our paint touch decision making was good and we finished around the basket tonight. We didn’t shoot the ball well from three and that’s where I think one of our strengths is as a team so if we can put together the three point shooting with our paint touches, then I think we can be a very, very good offensive team,” Mullins said.

Jones, the star of the second half, said the win gives them the opportunity to improve going into the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands.

“We got our first chance at a win, we’re going to build on that and do whatever we can to stack up wins at the Virgin Islands,” Jones said

Coach Mullins also said the game will give them a confidence booster heading into a tournament.

“It’s huge, first home game, we want to protect this place. So just having the crowd here, and then just obviously, confidence and momentum going into a big tournament,” Mullins said. “We’re gonna play three really good teams there. They’re all gonna be high. level games. So, we gotta build on this. We got to watch the film and We got to get better in the next six days before we play Colorado.”

Saluki Men’s Basketball will continue their season one week from today against Colorado in their first game of the Paradise Jam tournament. The game will start with a 7 p.m tip-off.

Sports reporter Joseph Bernard can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @Jojobernard2001.

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