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

Jarrett Hensley (32) claps in celebration as the clock runs out to give SIU the win over Murray State Feb. 21, 2024 at Banterra Center in Carbondale, Illinois.
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Salukis scream back, overcome 20 point deficit in win against Murray State

Saluki+Basketball+and+supporting+fans+scream+in+celebration+after+SIU+makes+a+20+point+comeback+in+the+second+half+to+take+the+lead+with+2.8+seconds+left+in+the+game+Jan.+27%2C+2024+at+CFSB+Center+in+Murray%2C+Kentucky.+
Lylee Gibbs | @lyleegibbsphoto
Saluki Basketball and supporting fans scream in celebration after SIU makes a 20 point comeback in the second half to take the lead with 2.8 seconds left in the game Jan. 27, 2024 at CFSB Center in Murray, Kentucky.

A familiar sight for Saluki fans was on display with 4 seconds left on the clock. Star guard Xavier Johnson had the ball in his hands, and he would not be denied.

Xavier Johnson (10) jumps up to shoot a layup for the Salukis as they face Murray State on the road Jan. 27, 2024 at CFSB Center in Murray, Kentucky. (Lylee Gibbs | @lyleegibbsphoto)

Johnson, off a hesitation dribble, drove to the right side of the basket and kissed the ball off the top of the glass to give the Salukis their only lead of the game.

 

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It proved to be the only lead that mattered. SIU held on, winning 60-58 against the rival Murray State Racers while completing a 20 point comeback.

 

“(Johnson’s) had a lot of great opportunities, he’s earned it. I trust his work, and he made a great finish,” Saluki head coach Bryan Mullins said.

 

The weight of the moment and completing the comeback was not lost on Johnson.

 

“I appreciate Coach, I’m humbled that he gave me the opportunity to have the ball in my hands at the end of the shot clock, my teammates believing in me. Just grateful for that.,” Johnson said.

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Senior Trent Brown came up big down the stretch, scoring 12 of his 16 points in the last 13 minutes of second half, igniting the Salukis 25-3 run to finish the game.

Trent Brown (24) pushes through the Murray State defense to pass the ball across the court Jan. 27, 2024 at CFSB Center in Murray, Kentucky. (Lylee Gibbs | @lyleegibbsphoto)

It did not appear SIU would have the chance to win, A sloppy first half saw the Salukis commit 17 turnovers, and enter the break trailing by 8. 

 

Murray State jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead to start the game field by Saluki turnovers. When SIU answered with a Rupert slam and a Johnson 3, Murray stayed calm and answered with a three pointer of their own. 

 

Every time the Salukis got a little bit of momentum in the first half, the Racers would answer with a nearly identical basket. SIU would enter the half down 8 but in control of the momentum via a Jarrett Hensley dunk with seven seconds remaining in the half.

 

The Racers came out of the break hot, holding SIU to 5 points in the first 6 minutes of play and building up to a 20 point lead. A switch flipped for the Salukis with 14 minutes left, and Murray State’s layup with 14:09 on the clock would be their last basket for 10 minutes. The Racers only scored 3 points for the rest of the game behind excellent defense and overwhelming offense from the Salukis.

 

“What was able to get us back was taking care of the ball and then getting stops, keeping them out of the paint. We were able to rebound, and limit them to one shot,” Mullins said.

 

Foul trouble  proved to be a problem for both teams’ big men. Clarence Rupert played only 10 minutes due to foul trouble, while Murray State’s big men also spent long stretches on the bench. 

 

Rupert’s replacement, Scottie Ebube, proved to be a big spark off the bench in what may have been his best defensive game of the season. Ebube, who played 18 minutes, finished the game with 8 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 massive blocks.

 

“Scottie did a great job,” Mullins said. He was able to break up a couple passes, and then we were struggling with guarding the paint from the post and also the guards driving down. I think his presence in there made it hard for guards to finish.”

 

AJ Ferguson helped keep the Salukis afloat in the first half by scoring 12 of his 14 points in the first half, including a season-high three baskets from behind the arc.

 

Saturday’s win marked the Salukis’ third road win in the Missouri Valley and has them in fifth place in the MVC standings.

 

“It’s huge to win on the road in this league, regardless of if we’re down 20 or win by 20… it’s great to be able to build off the Valpo game and hopefully we can continue to keep it going.,” Mullins said.

 

The Salukis will return home to Carbondale and face the Missouri State Bears on Wednesday at 7 PM in the Banterra Center.

 

Sports reporter Ryan Grieser can be reached at [email protected]. To stay up to date on all your southern Illinois news, be sure to follow The Daily Egyptian on Facebook and on X @dailyegyptian.

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