Late second half comeback isn’t enough against the Sycamores, Men’s Basketball drops second in a row

Troy+D%E2%80%99Amico+%2823%29+and+Adong+Makuoi+%2810%29+jump+up+for+the+tipoff+during+the+home+game+against+Tennessee+State+Nov.+17%2C+2022+at+the+Banterra+Center+in+Carbondale%2C+Ill.

Troy D’Amico (23) and Adong Makuoi (10) jump up for the tipoff during the home game against Tennessee State Nov. 17, 2022 at the Banterra Center in Carbondale, Ill.

Down by as much as 14 in the second half, a relentless effort gave the Dawgs the lead for the first time all night with just eight minutes left in the game, but there wasn’t enough gas left in the tank for the Dawgs as Indiana State (9-1, 2-0 MVC) handed SIU (5-4, 1-1 MVC) their first conference loss on the season with a 74-71 final score.

“Give credit to Indiana State, we didn’t get off to the start we needed to. I thought our guys came back strong in the second half, but it’s hard to beat a really good team when you only play well for 15-20 minutes. We got to do a better job offensively and defensively for 40 minutes if we want to try to beat some of these top-level teams,” coach Bryan Mullins said.

Turnovers were an issue for the Salukis yet again. 15 total were credited to Southern with nine of those coming from seniors Marcus Domask and Xavier Johnson. 

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“Kinda unforced and careless a little bit. Second game in a row with some bad turnovers, but give Indiana State’s defense some credit. Playing at home we just have to have a better start. We got to set the tone with our energy, our ball pressure wasn’t good that second half…Good things happen when you play with a tone of energy and emotion,” Mullins said.

Domask, Johnson, and redshirt freshman Foster Wonders hit the double-digit mark in points tonight, with 16 from Domask, 13 from Johnson, and 11 from Wonders. Domask and Johnson shared the lead for assists with four, while senior Lance Jones and sophomore Troy D’Amico shared the lead in rebounds with six.

Mullins highlighted the improvement that Wonders has made recently.

“He’s come in and played well in all his opportunities. I think he’s getting more comfortable. He’s a hard worker, he loves it here so I think he’s going to continue to excel and do well. The more you play, the more you know the speed of the game. I think defensively you kinda get caught up a bit more, but I think he’ll continue to progress,” Mullins said.

Wonders said the confidence his teammates give off helped him perform tonight.

“I think just having the confidence that my teammates give me. They want me to shoot the ball if I’m open and I give a lot of credit to them for setting me up and getting me open and the coaches also had confidence in me,” Wonders said.

Slow starts continue to be a thorn in the Saluki’s side, with tonight continuing the trend.

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The Dawgs let Indiana State get out to an 11-2 lead just over five minutes into the game and couldn’t get out of that hole for a while. Jumpers by senior Jawaun Newton and Domask got it within a six-point deficit, but the Sycamores marched right back with a couple more layups to get it to their largest lead at 14 just minutes later.

Johnson said the slow starts have been on them as players.

“It’s just been a case of coming out and not executing like we’re supposed to. We just need to find a way to be on the same page and just lock in. It definitely hurts.

With just five to go, the Sycamores missed a three-pointer which gave Jones the opportunity for a quick buzzer-beater to close out the half with some momentum on the Dawg’s side. The Salukis would go into the locker room down by 11 at 39-28.

Jones’ momentum only went as far as the first two baskets in the second half before Indiana State grew their lead back up to thirteen points.

However, a layup by Johnson jumpstarted a quick run for the Dawgs that saw them get back to within three of the Sycamores. Wonders’ fastbreak all of a sudden tied the game for the Dawgs before Jawaun Newton took a quick lead for the Salukis at 58-56. 

The lead was short-lived though. A timeout by Indiana State helped them regroup for the next three baskets, getting back to a five-point lead. A three-pointer by Wonders got things back within two once more, but it was too little too late for the Dawgs as they drop their second Valley game of the year.

Johnson said defensively it was difficult for the Dawgs to keep Indiana State away from the basket down the final stretch.

“Just not being able to keep them out of the paint. We just have to find a way to dig in. We fought all the way back to the lead, just got to keep going,” Johnson said.

The Dawgs will look to try to get back into the win column after a disappointing first week of December. They’ll be back in the Banterra center with a quick turnaround on Saturday against Alcorn State (3-7). That game will start with a 7 pm tip-off.

“We gotta play the right way for 40 minutes. I mean we gotta win on Saturday night. It’s hard to win games, so we gotta play with a ton of energy, we gotta play selfless basketball on offense and defensively gotta have great ball pressure and we gotta be more connected and take away the paint for teams,” Mullins said.

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

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