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

Dominique Martinez-Powell | dmartinez_powell.photography
Letter to the editor: Gaza’s citizens deserve peace
By Y.M April 17, 2024

The Gaza Strip stands as a testament to the resilience of its people. The conditions of their livelihood are unbearable; Gazans have been enduring...

Letter to the editor: A Rabbi’s message on Gaza
Letter to the editor: A Rabbi’s message on Gaza
By Rabbi Mendel Scheiman April 17, 2024

Imagine someone who lives all alone, with no connection to the outside world. One bright sunny day, in the middle of the afternoon, the skies...

Trent Brown sits on the side of the court waiting to substitute in as the Salukis face the University of Evansville Purple Aces Feb. 25, 2024 at Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana. Lylee Gibbs | @lyleegibbsphoto
Letter to the editor: Trent Brown bids farewell to Saluki Nation
By Trent Brown, Saluki Men's Basketball • April 17, 2024

The hardwood at Banterra is where some of you may have heard my name. Others may not know me at all. This note, however, is still to you because...

SIU’s potential cinderella run bursts into flames after UIC upset

Head+Coach+Bryan+Mullins+speaks+to+Saluki+Basketball+in+a+media+timeout+as+the+Salukis+face+the+Flames+of+UIC+in+the+first+round+of+Arch+Madness+March+7%2C+2024+at+Enterprise+Center+in+St.+Louis%2C+Missouri.+
Lylee Gibbs | @lyleegibbsphoto
Head Coach Bryan Mullins speaks to Saluki Basketball in a media timeout as the Salukis face the Flames of UIC in the first round of Arch Madness March 7, 2024 at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

Not one traveling Saluki fan was seated in their chair as the buzzer-sounded yet again, signifying a second overtime was about to begin. A distant three-point shot from the arms of guard Trent Brown failed to connect, leaving the Carbondale fans with a sense of dread. 

After what seemed like a sure victory with just minutes left in the second half following a historic comeback by Southern Illinois — now all of the momentum resided back again with the Flames. 

Sixth-seeded Southern Illinois kicked off Arch Madness against the 11-seeded University of Illinois-Chicago in St. Louis on Thursday evening at 8:30 p.m. 

Advertisement

Clarence Rupert won the tip off for the Salukis but it would take a while for the Dawgs to see its first basket go through the hoop. Three minutes into the game, senior guard Trent Brown was the first to score with a triple from deep three-point range. 

With a slow start in the first, the Dawgs allowed a few made shots from UIC but picked it up as forward Jarrett Hensley snagged a defensive rebound and drove into the paint for two.

Xavier Johnson (10) goes up towards the basket for a layup as the Salukis face the UIC Flames March 7, 2024 at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri. (Lylee Gibbs | @lyleegibbsphoto)

Looking to redeem themselves before the end of the first half, Xavier Johnson was fouled by Toby Okani making both of his free throws, followed by a made three and two down from forward AJ Ferguson.

Although the Dawgs weren’t on top of their offensive game, Brown was breaking through screens and staying in front of opponents on defense. Unfortunately, due to his lack of size, the Flames hunted him on the offensive side of the ball.

The Flames outscored the Salukis on shots in the paint, 50-24 in total.

After a made shot in the paint by Ferguson, UIC stole away the last bits of momentum the Dawgs had left for the first half and ran with it, pushing its nine-point lead to 11 with a steal following a defensive rebound. 

With four minutes left in the first half UIC increased their lead to 14.

Advertisement*

With no one under the basket for an offensive rebound with 20 seconds left in the first half, the Dawgs headed to the locker room with a score of 27-42, with UIC on top. 

Rupert started off the second half for the Dawgs with a two-point second chance shot in the paint. 

At the 16-minute mark the Dawgs tallied a turnover on Johnson after a bad pass ending up in the hands of UIC.

A minor, but pivotal moment in the game presents itself. Rupert hustles defensively and forces a UIC turnover, igniting the Saluki crowd and causes the SIU bench to jump to its feet.

This passionate display from the veteran forward was the sole turning point for the Salukis’ second-half chances. 

“Clarence is an emotional guy, we need him to play with that type of energy he did in the second half, and you try different ways to get him going. When he’s playing with a high energy high motor, that’s when he’s at his best and helps our team. I think he just wanted to win that game in the second half,” Mullins said. 

Working to decrease the Flames lead moving through the second half, Southern tallied a made free throw and jumper by Johnson followed by a three-point jumper by Ferguson after a steal by Kennard Davis Jr.

This was followed by a steal by Trent Brown with a pass back to Ferguson for back-to-back fast breaks. Coming out of the time out Ferguson went one and one on the free throws but the Salukis weren’t close to slowing down. 

Buckets continued to pile on for the Salukis led by three-pointers from Brown, hard drives from Ferguson and aggressive playmaking from Johnson.

Jarrett Hensley (32) shoots from the corner for three March 7, 2024 at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri. (Lylee Gibbs | @lyleegibbsphoto)

Hensley knocked down a monumental three from the corner with six minutes left in regulation, which cut the Flames’ lead to just one. Another foul drawn by Johnson meant two free throws, which he nailed both of, to retake the Salukis’ first lead since the beginning of the game.

The Dawgs pushed its lead to a game-high of seven points before the tide began to shift back to its northern-residing opponents. It seemed SIU got all too comfortable up six with just a few minutes left in the game. 

What later ensued was an easy dunk from UIC star Isaiah Rivera to shorten Southern Illinois’ lead. 

Johnson was lucky enough to snag an offensive rebound off of a miss and was fouled shortly after. However, he missed the one-and-one free throw, leading to a three-pointer from a UIC sharpshooter to tie the game.

The Salukis ran an unsuccessful set which resulted in a miss from Hensley. The comeback was officially delayed and with Johnson staring down the barrel of his fifth foul waiting to happen, the sea of maroon was silent as a mouse. 

The crowd began to stir up yet again after big plays in overtime. Although SIU was playing catch-up through most of the overtime period, SIU did just enough to stay alive.

However, presumption turned into reality when Johnson picked up his fifth foul, disqualifying him from the rest of the contest. Ferguson checked into the game with four fouls of his own, but his output was simply too effective to keep on the bench.

AJ Ferguson (14) dribbles the ball towards the basket March 7, 2024 at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri. (Lylee Gibbs | @lyleegibbsphoto)

Ferguson finished the game with 14 points and rebounds, leading the way in regard to crashing the boards. 

“I didn’t really expect it. I just came out trying to do everything I could to help the outcome be positive,” Ferguson said. 

Despite worrying about the offense without Johnson, the Salukis held a two-point lead at the end of the first overtime but left the Flames with plenty of time to tie or win the contest. 

UIC’s attempt was successful, as Rivera drew a foul on Ferguson, fouling him out of the game. 

He knocked down both free throws. 

Brown would go on to miss a game-winning attempt, forcing yet another overtime late into the night. 

With the Dawgs two most offensively productive players fouled out of the ballgame, the Salukis struggled to find offense in double-OT. As for the Flames, Rivera attacked the basket time and time again, with Southern Illinois struggling to find answers. 

Mullins said he still feels SIU did all they could to maximize the talent still available.

“Just trying to find a way to put the guys who are on the court in the position to win, offensively and defensively what we needed to do to execute,” Mullins said. 

The Salukis put themselves in a competitive position at the end of the game, but ultimately mistimed shot-making meant it was all too late for the Salukis. 

With a missed half-court shot from D’Amico, the Flames finally emerged victorious, 84-82.

“Disappointing loss for us, but the last 30 minutes, I’m proud of our guys’ effort,” Mullins said.

Xavier Johnson sits with his head down at the press conference following the Salukis loss to the UIC Flames March 7, 2024 at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri. (Lylee Gibbs | @lyleegibbsphoto)

Top performers for the Salukis include Ferguson, Hensley, Brown and Johnson. Johnson finished with a team-best 27 points, seven assists and two steals. 

This loss will conclude the 2024 Salukis’ season. The remainder of the conference tournament will take place over the weekend.

Advertisement

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Daily Egyptian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *