Cade Hornecker debuts in Saluki victory over Tennessee State

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Freshman Cade Hornecker came into Thursday night’s game with 5:31 left to play in the first half. In doing so, he burned his redshirt, but he also cemented himself as a Saluki in front of nearly four thousand fans at the Banterra Center.

“Coach [Bryan Mullins] pulled me in his office today and said that he was going to give me a chance to go into the game today,” Hornecker said. “So I just had to be prepared for that. My time came, and I feel like I stepped into my role as good as I could.”

Saluki men’s basketball delivered a 57-44 win in its return to Carbondale, defeating the previously unbeaten Tennessee State Tigers to move to 3-1 on the young season.

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Hornecker, an Amarillo, Texas native was originally planned to sit out his first year in order to extend his eligibility. But due to a combination of early-season development and injuries to big men JD Muila and Scotie Ebube, head coach Bryan Mullins made the decision on Thursday to play him.

“Every day in practice, we talk about the good plays he’s been making…” Mullins said. “For him, as he continues to get minutes, the speed of the game will slow down a little bit for him. But I think he can really help us this year.”

While he didn’t light up the stat sheet in only six minutes played, Hornecker brought the energy to the Bank and gave fans a taste of what was to come. The 7-footer tallied four points and two rebounds, and the team had a plus/minus of +10 while he was on the floor.

“It’s crazy, because people know me, and I hadn’t played any minutes in a basketball game,” Hornecker said on having his first game in front of the home fans. “It’s definitely exciting having some familiar faces in the crowd.”

On the other end of the spectrum, senior Marcus Domask turned in a double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds as he led the team in both categories. He also got to the free throw line nine times, making seven of his attempts.

Domask was a key contributor to the Salukis as a freshman in 2019-20, earning all-conference honors as well as MVC Newcomer and Freshman of the Year. He knows the impact a true freshman can have, and credited his teammate for bringing that on Thursday.

“Cade was huge for us,” Domask said, sharing a smile with the 7-foot, 240-pound center. “He got in right away, got a bucket, had some big defensive coverages on the ball screen. His vocalness as a freshman was big time for us.”

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While Southern would end the night with a double-digit victory, it wasn’t the prettiest game. After starting 2-for-3 from three-point range, the Dawgs finished 1-for-18 in that category, a skid that spanned the final 36 minutes of the game.

This continued a concern from the team’s loss on Sunday to Indiana State, where they missed their final 16 shots from downtown.

Additionally, the offense sputtered from all distances late, as the team did not make a field goal in the last 10 minutes of the game (0-for-8).

“I think we got a little stagnant,” Domask said. “I can’t give an exact answer. I have to go back and watch film, and we’ll do that.”

Despite these struggles, the defense held strong. Both teams committed 17 turnovers each, but the Salukis scored 21 points off turnovers to the Tigers’ 4. Tennessee State also finished with a similarly awful 21% from three-point range, failing to capitalize on Southern’s shooting woes.

“Give a team that’s averaging 85 points a game, is predicted to win their league, and hold them to 44, is the type of defense we need to continue to play,” Mullins said.

Even during its worst shooting stretches, the Salukis never relinquished the lead. At times, the lead was as close as one point, and as safe as a 17; but the Tigers never managed to force a change.

SIU made its attempts from the charity stripe when needed, shooting 20-for-23 from the free throw line including a 94% clip in the second half.

“For us to be able to come through on the line, that was really big for us, because that was the first game we probably shot that many free throws,” Mullins said. “Showed a lot of poise by our guys, even though we were turning the ball over at too high of a rate.”

The Salukis will need to clean up what has been a tough offense to watch in recent games, as they head to San Juan Capistrano, California, for the SoCal Challenge. Their next test is UNLV (3-0), who they will play Monday night at midnight CST. The Runnin’ Rebels beat No. 21 ranked Dayton earlier this week.

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

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