Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Bedlam at Banterra: Salukis upset Oklahoma State for second straight year

Perhaps the biggest game the Banterra Center has seen in the past 15 years lived up to the hype.

SIU men’s basketball (6-2) ended its Tuesday night in winning fashion with a 70-68 victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-5) of the Big XII conference. It was the first time the Salukis hosted a Power Five opponent since 2008, when the Cowboys visited Carbondale during the National Invitational Tournament.

“Happy for them to be able to experience that locker room after the game,” head coach Bryan Mullins said. “A lot of work has gone into it. Unbelievably appreciative of the support, the crowd, the Dawg Pound, everyone coming out tonight. It means the world.”


Tuesday’s matchup came down to the final minute, and even the final second. Southern made several key defensive plays to protect its lead and prevent the Cowboys from spoiling the party.

With less than 30 seconds remaining in a tie game, Clarence Rupert made the deciding bucket on a putback, and drew a shooting foul that allowed him to push the Saluki lead to three with a free throw.

Rupert is no stranger to the spotlight, as a member of the 2021-22 Saint Peter’s team that made a run to the Elite Eight. Despite that experience as a Cinderella team, the Philadelphia native still cherishes the legacy he is creating at Southern Illinois.

“The culture here, the fans here, my teammates know, being able to celebrate these wins with them is everything,” Rupert said. “…These moments are everything.”

On the ensuing Oklahoma State possession, Troy D’Amico blocked a three-point attempt, but was controversially called for a technical foul. The Cowboys would sink both subsequent free throws, and receive another possession down just one point with 10.9 seconds remaining.

However, the Saluki defense held strong once again, forcing two missed shots before Kennard Davis Jr. grabbed the rebound to seal SIU’s victory.

“It was a great college basketball game,” Mullins said. “It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t always pretty, but I thought our guys really competed and made enough winning plays there at the end to get the result we wanted.”


Xavier Johnson (10) goes up towards the basket to toss the ball in for a layup as the Salukis host Oklahoma State Dec. 5, 2023 at Banterra Center in Carbondale, Illinois. (Lylee Gibbs | @lyleegibbsphoto )

While Oklahoma State would not hold a lead in the final 16 minutes of play, the Cowboys managed to tie the ballgame three times in the last four minutes. Although Southern has collected six wins this season, Tuesday was the first time that the Salukis had to truly protect a lead and close out the game.

“It was good to be able to win this close one,” Mullins said. “…To be able to win close games, that’s what the Valley’s gonna be about. Teams that are able to win those one- to two-possession games. So, to be able to put yourself in that position in the non-conference so you have that experience when Valley play starts.”

Southern entered a media timeout with a 66-62 lead at the 3:09 mark in the second half. However, a replay review led to a prior goaltending call being overturned, cutting the SIU lead to just two. Oklahoma State would go on to tie the game at 64 more than a minute later.

In a pivotal moment of the game, D’Amico blocked a three-pointer – the first of two times he would do so in the final minutes – leading to an Oklahoma State timeout. Out of the break, Xavier Johnson swiped the ball and drove for a lead-grabbing layup with just 70 seconds left in the game.

On the next Cowboys possession, Davis appeared to block Javon Small’s shot, but it was ruled a shooting foul. Small would make both free throws, part of an 8-for-8 day from the line for the Oklahoma State point guard.

Entering the final minute, Rupert saw his first shot attempt get blocked, but Johnson grabbed the rebound for a second effort. His attempt missed as well

before Rupert would get the putback and draw a foul to give the Salukis the lead for good.

While Dec. 5 will represent a monumental date in the program for years to come, it isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Salukis. They previously defeated Oklahoma State on the road in Stillwater on Nov. 10, 2022 in the first of a three-game home-and-home series. SIU is now 2-0 in that series, with the third game expected to come in the 2024-25 season in Stillwater.

“All the people that have supported SIU basketball, just to get them here and to be able to make sure people understand what we do here works, and it works at the highest level,” Mullins said.

Trent Brown (24) holds his arms up in the air as the buzzer signals the end of the game to give the Salukis the win over Oklahoma State Dec. 5, 2023 at Banterra Center in Carbondale, Illinois. (Lylee Gibbs | @lyleegibbsphoto)

Johnson’s 32 points marked a game-high, and the third time Johnson reached the 30-point mark in his last five games. Many of his points came from free throws; his 13 made shots from the charity stripe were more than the amount Oklahoma State attempted as a team (11).

Rupert finished with 13 points and five rebounds, including the game-winning putback. Davis pulled down eight rebounds, including the board that sealed Southern’s victory.

Trent Brown added 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting. His three-point shooting to start the season has proven efficient, with Brown nearing matching his season total in threes made from 2022-23 in fewer than half of the attempts.

The Salukis will have a week to celebrate before their next matchup: Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. against Austin Peay (4-6). SIU will be defending its non-conference home winning streak, which was extended to 24 straight wins on Tuesday.

“We’re on a mission. We’ve got to keep it going, to keep getting these wins,” Rupert said.

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


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