Ben Coupet Jr.’s 22 leads Salukis past Redbirds on Senior Night

Southern Illinois (16-13, 9-8 MVC) dominated the Illinois State Redbirds (11-19, 4-13 MVC), scoring a season-high in points on their way to a 90-69 victory on Wednesday night at the Banterra Center.

The Salukis’ 90 points was the most since a 2019 game at Evansville. Propelled by a first-half offensive explosion including a 19-5 run to close out the half, the Salukis led wire-to-wire, and never led by less than 13 in the second half.

Seniors Ben Coupet Jr., Anthony D’Avanzo, Will Keller, and Sekou Dembele were honored before the game. It wouldn’t be the last time Coupet received a standing ovation on Wednesday, as he led his team in scoring with 22 points along with five rebounds.

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“Being able to get the win, that’s all I can really ask for,” Coupet said. “Just going out with a win in my last game in the Banterra Center.”

Juniors Lance Jones and Marcus Domask also turned in solid performances with 16 points each, and Steven Verplancken Jr. added 12 off the bench.

“I think you’ve gotta have three double-figure scorers on a team,” head coach Bryan Mullins said. “I think [Coupet, Jones and Domask] have done a great job these last couple weeks just playing in rhythm, being decisive, playing with poise.”

As a team, the Salukis shot 10-13 from three in the first half, and finished the game at 57% from the field. Where SIU thrived the most was in points off turnovers, a battle it won 29-4 over the Redbirds.

The win does not do much for Southern Illinois in the Missouri Conference standings. While still mathematically alive for the fifth seed, the Salukis are essentially locked into the sixth seed. For them, these final few regular season games are about working towards getting the team prepared no matter what Valley foe ends up as their opponent in Arch Madness.

“Whenever we play on Friday, we’ll be ready,” Mullins said.

SIU would play whichever team comes third out of Loyola-Chicago, Northern Iowa, Missouri State, and Drake, who are all within one game of each other entering the final weekend of the regular season. The Salukis are a combined 0-7 against those teams, but have played close in nearly every contest.

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Joining the Salukis in St. Louis will be the Dawg Pound, which is hosting its third bus trip to watch the team play on the road. Mullins has frequently credited the Dawg Pound for providing a home-court type atmosphere whether they’re playing in Carbondale or across the Midwest.

“It’s what makes Southern Illinois so special,” Mullins said. “It’s why I love this place. It’s why my experience as a student was so great.”

The Salukis will finish the season this Saturday, visiting Drake (21-9, 12-5 MVC) in a potential preview of what is to come next week. If SIU beats the No. 3 seed on Friday, they will advance to likely play the No. 2 seed on Saturday.

“It’s gonna be a great challenge for us,” Mullins said of the upcoming Drake matchup. “Our whole thing is we want to keep getting better. We don’t want to have a letdown, we don’t want to have a setback.”

SIU came within a point of Drake when they clashed at the Banterra Center in January. Tip-off for Saturday’s game in Des Moines, Iowa is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Staff reporter Brandyn Wilcoxen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Brandyn_2020. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter

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