Banks shines off the bench as Salukis rebound against Indiana State

By Brandyn Wilcoxen, Staff Reporter

The Salukis (10-8, 3-3 in MVC) rebounded from back-to-back 1 point losses to beat the visiting Indiana State Sycamores (8-9, 1-4 in MVC) by a score of 63-55 in the final game of a three-game homestand.

SIU was led in scoring by Lance Jones with 14 points, followed by Steven Verplancken Jr. with 12, and Dalton Banks with 11. Ben Coupet Jr. and Marcus Domask each had eight points, Troy D’Amico added five, Trent Brown scored three, and Kyle Filewich had two.

The game was a tight contest throughout, with neither team holding a lead larger than seven until Southern Illinois pulled away in the final minutes.


SIU struggled shooting from distance, especially from three-point range. They finished the first half at 27% from that far out. The shooting woes especially showed among the three top scorers this season, as Domask, Jones, and Coupet combined for 10-for-33 shooting overall.

However, of those 10 made shots, three came from Jones three-pointers in the final nine minutes of play. He and Verplancken combined for 12 straight points midway through the second half that gave SIU the deciding lead.

“I feel like once we made our first three, it was like a domino effect and everybody starts hitting it,” Jones said.

Sandwiched between Jones’s shooting success was a great defensive effort, holding the Sycamores to 0-for-4 from the floor and forcing three turnovers during what would eventually be a 17-2 run.

Most notably, the Saluki defense held Indiana State’s leading scorer Cooper Neese to just six points. In his place, Xavier Bledson scored 17 of the Sycamores’ 31 first half points, but was bottled up as well in the second half with just four points.

“The defense was great in the second half,” Banks said. “Our goal is to just continue to play at that high level for a full 40-minute game. When we can do that, we’re gonna be special.”

Banks in particular stepped up off the bench while his teammates struggled. His 11 points, four assists, and three rebounds in 29 proved crucial in aiding his team through an off stretch.


“The whole game, you just gotta stay the course because we know that if we stick to our principles, the shots are gonna fall,” Banks said. “And when they do fall, you can see, we can break open games like that.”

Wednesday’s game saw the Salukis get 21 bench points, after the non-starters scored 30 on Monday. For SIU, their bench play has become part of their identity.

“We’ve got 15 guys in that locker room that care about SIU basketball and that want to win a championship. We’ve got 10 guys in the rotation right now, and we’re gonna need everyone,“ coach Bryan Mullins said.

As a player who has started only seven career games midway through his sophomore season, Banks knows firsthand the impact the bench has on games.

“Our bench is everything to us,” Banks said. “We’re a deep team.”

Because their game against Drake, originally scheduled for early January, was rescheduled for last Monday, Wednesday’s game against Indiana State was their third game in five days. Playing on short rest and with little time to prepare, the Salukis have responded well.

“I give the staff and the guys a ton of credit just for these last five days… Not much practices, just some film sessions and then an hour walkthrough trying to get these guys ready,” Mullins said. “They absorbed all the information and executed the game plan pretty well. When they’re out there, they just want to win.”

Especially taxing on the players has been how close each game has been. Saturday’s and Monday’s games were decided by 1 point, and Wednesday’s game was close for nearly the entire 40 minutes.

“These three games have all been grind it out games,” Banks said. “They’ve been tough. But for us, we’ve just gotta continue to learn how to be tough.”

The Salukis will hit the road on Saturday against Bradley (9-10, 3-4 in MVC). The game will be their fourth in eight days.

Staff reporter Brandyn Wilcoxen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Brandyn_2020

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