Salukis fall in semifinals to Drake 65-52


Lylee Gibbs @lyleegibbsphotgraphy

Clarence Rupert (4) looks to get up towards the basket as he is blocked by Nate Furguson (24) when the Salukis face the Drake Bulldogs at the Arch Madness Semifinal Mar. 4, 2023 at the Enterprise Center in Saint Louis, MO.

Southern Illinois men’s basketball saw its Arch Madness journey end on Saturday night, suffering a 65-52 defeat at the hands of the Drake Bulldogs.

The Dawgs finish their season 23-10, barring a postseason invite. Their run to the semifinals is the deepest they’ve gone into the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament under head coach Bryan Mullins.

“I thought we played well in spurts, we just didn’t put together 40 minutes of good enough basketball to win at this level,” Mullins said. “But just in terms of our team’s fight, our resiliency throughout this whole year, I couldn’t have asked to be a coach for a better team that represents this program, this university the way they do.”


Lance Jones led the team in scoring on Saturday with 18 points. He opened the night with two three-pointers to spark a 9-0 run for the Salukis to begin the game, and featured heavily in a 13-2 Saluki run to start the second half.

Lance Jones (5) jumps to pass the ball back before reaching the end of the court as Darnell Brodie (51), Roman Penn (1), and D.J Wilkins of Drake University attempt to block as the Salukis face the Bulldogs at the Arch Madness Semifinal Mar. 4, 2023 at the Enterprise Center in Saint Louis, MO. (Lylee Gibbs @lyleegibsphotography)

“I think we all came out with the right focus,” Jones said. “To try to win the first possession, or try to come out with a great mindset.”

However, Drake managed to counter both SIU runs with bursts of their own. Notably, a 26-4 run in the first half gave the Bulldogs a lead they would never relinquish.

A major battle during the game came between Drake’s 6’10 forward Darnell Brodie and SIU’s 6’8 Clarence Rupert. Brodie would finish with 10 points and 17 rebounds, while Rupert had nine points and four rebounds.

A major focus of the Drake offense involved screens from Brodie, which would help free up Drake’s guards or cause Rupert to switch and free up Brodie for a good look at the basket.

“Those guys do a great job of finding Brodie,” Mullins said. “Brodie’s a big target. He does a great job setting screens, rolling, and he gets a lot of his baskets off of drop downs and pocket passes from the guards.”

This became even more effective after Rupert picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game. The Salukis had a point differential of +12 when Rupert was on the floor, but he was limited to just 21 minutes.


“Knowing I was in foul trouble early, I feel like it kinda impacted a lot,” Rupert said. “But knowing that JD Muila, he came into the game and defended Brodie. He’s been picking me up all year long. I try to pick him up as much as possible. We just couldn’t get over the hump.”

Drake emphasized the three-point game in the first half, hitting six shots in 10 attempts. But as the deep ball dried up in the second half, the Bulldogs transitioned to focusing more on the midrange, which garnered success from Roman Penn, Garrett Sturtz and MVC Player of the Year Tucker DeVries.

“We were trying to take away threes and prevent layups, try to make them take some tough contested twos,” Mullins said. “In that first half, they got too many threes. In the second half, they probably got too many layups.”

Marcus Domask struggled from the field, shooting 3-for-11 with many of his shots rimming out. Domask appeared to have lingering effects from an eye injury suffered on Friday and a knee injury suffered late in Saturday’s game. He did grab eight rebounds, leading the team in that category.

Marcus Domask gets up to dunk the ball against the opposing Drake Bulldogs at the Arch Madness Semifinal Mar. 4, 2023 at the Enterprise Center in Saint Louis, MO. (Lylee Gibbs @lyleegibbsphotography)

The Enterprise Center saw an influx of Saluki fans packing the southwest end of the stands. Between the Dawg Pound, the pep band, and fans in the audience, Southern felt the love of the community that it had felt all year long at the Banterra Center.

“Our fans, they’ve been at every single game, every home game sold out, supporting us,” Rupert said. “Wins, losses, downs, ups; it really doesn’t matter. They come with us everywhere we go. Especially the Dawg Pound. Our fansbase is just amazing. That’s all I can say: amazing.”

It is possible that SIU will be selected to one of several postseason tournaments, but its shot at an NCAA Tournament bid is gone after being eliminated from Arch Madness. Mullins stated that the near future is undetermined, but the loss to Drake ends the meaningful stretch of SIU’s season.

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

Staff reporter Cole Daily can be reached at [email protected]

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