Men’s Basketball falls to 5-3 on season with road loss to St Louis despite breakout performance for Johnson

Xavier+Johnson+%2810%29+shoots+from+the+three+against+the+Tennessee+State+Tigers+Nov.+17%2C+2022+at+the+Banterra+Center+in+Carbondale%2C+Ill.+

Xavier Johnson (10) shoots from the three against the Tennessee State Tigers Nov. 17, 2022 at the Banterra Center in Carbondale, Ill.

SIU dropped their third game of the season earlier Saturday afternoon. After a rough start, a Saluki comeback could never get back to within two points as Saint Louis was able to handily beat Southern.

“We just didn’t play the way we needed to in that first half… I thought we played a little bit better in the second half and gave us some opportunities to get back in it. Defensively it wasn’t our best effort by any means,” head coach Bryan Mullins said.

Unlike a lot of Saluki Games, it was senior Xavier Johnson who led the Salukis in scoring, with 23 points coming his way. Coach Mullins gave his compliments to Johnson for his first-half efforts.

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“He kept us in during the first half because we weren’t getting enough stops and he was able to make some big shots, keep it within eight points for a while. He shot well the other game, so good to see it starting to fall for him,” Mullins said.

Johnson also led in rebounds with five and steals with six, making for an all-around night for the transfer from George Mason. Trailing Johnson were longtime Salukis Marcus Domask and Lance Jones with 18 coming from Domask and 12 from Jones. Jones was particularly helpful with assists tonight, tallying four total.

The game started out really competitive, with SIU leading narrowly at 10-7 through five minutes of play, but a huge three-pointer suddenly sparked a 20-2 run for the Billikens to earn them a double-digit lead at 27-12, with the Saluki defense searching for answers. SIU would inch away at the lead through the rest of the frame, finishing with a 5-point run to make it an eight-point game at the half at 46-38.

The comeback wasn’t quite finished, however, with Southern continuing their run, a big three-pointer by Johnson got things within just two points at 58-56, but almost immediately Saint Louis was back at it once more, scoring 11 of the next 13 points to jump back into their double-digit lead. It was just too much for the Dawgs to come back from at that point as they fell 85-72.

Johnson believes it was at the point of the basket that hurt the team tonight

“Looking at the game, we got killed on the offensive glass, and to play a team like that we have to be physical and be able to rebound and be ready to go from the jump. We can’t get out to a big deficit like that to start,” Johnson said.

Coach Mullins said it ultimately comes down to the defense in order to beat great teams like Saint Louis.

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“We just got to be special on the defensive end. We’ve been pretty good on that end this year so far and for us to be the team we want to be and for us to get to where we want to go to this year we have to have unbelievable effort and competitiveness on that end. Our offense is starting to click, so we just have to continue to get better as a team here,” Mullins said.

Senior Trent Brown still has a lot of faith in his squad this year despite the loss.

“I believe in this team and I believe that we can win every game that we’re in. These coaches set us up for a lot of success and we clawed our way back like I knew we would but, we just couldn’t hold on and get enough stops,” Brown said.

The Salukis will come back home to the Banterra Center on Wednesday to hopefully start 2-0 in conference play against the Sycamores of Indiana State. That game will start with a 7 pm tip-off.

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

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