Creighton holds off pesky SIU in OT

By Gus Bode

Mistakes and a late fould cost the SIU men’s basketball team a chance to upset archrival Creighton on the road.

The Salukis lost two four-point leads late in regulation and again in overtime as the Bluejays escaped the back-and-forth battle with a 73-72 overtime win.

Freshman guard Kevin Dillard led the Salukis with 21 points in 39 minutes of play and dished five assists, but a pair of freshman mistakes hurt the team in the game’s closing seconds.


After hitting a pair of free throws to give SIU (7-10, 2-4) a 63-60 lead with 10.4 seconds remaining in regulation, Dillard fouled guard Cavel Witter as he attempted a 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds, giving the Bluejays a chance to tie the game.

Witter proceeded to hit all three free throws to tie the game. Senior guard Bryan Mullins had a chance to win the game in regulation, but his desperation 3-point heave near midcourt glanced off the rim to send the game into overtime.

Dillard said he thought his miscues were detrimental to the team’s success.

‘I felt like I made some freshman mistakes and I hurt the team,’ a somber Dillard said in a post-game radio interview.

Creighton (14-4, 4-2) took an early two-point lead in overtime after a pair of made free throws by forward Kenny Lawson Jr., but Saluki senior forward Tony Boyle scored six consecutive points to give SIU a 69-65 lead with 1:06 remaining in overtime. Boyle finished with nine points and 10 rebounds.

The overtime period featured several empty offensive possessions for the Bluejays, which opened the door for the Salukis to pick up their second straight road win.

Then SIU suffered a disastrous ending.


Dillard was stripped from behind by Bluejays guard Josh Dotzler, who set up teammate P’Allen Stinnett’s 3-point field goal, which cut the Salukis’ lead to one with 49 seconds left. Stinnett led all scorers with a game-high 29 points.

An offensive foul by freshman guard Ryan Hare on the team’s next offensive possession compounded SIU’s problems. The turnover turned into a 3-point field goal by Booker Woodfox with 27 seconds left to give Creighton a 71-69 lead.

The two 3-pointers, which were separated by 22 game seconds, were the Bluejays’ only field goals in overtime and gave the Bluejays a lead they would not relinquish.

SIU head coach Chris Lowery said Dillard’s turnover that led to Woodfox’s 3-pointer changed the complexion of the game.

‘We just got physically bullied in that corner,’ Lowery said. ‘It’s a freshman not understanding the sense of urgency going against a senior who understands the sense of urgency.’

Creighton ended a back-and-forth first half with a 6-0 run to give the Bluejays a 33-25 halftime lead. They shot 48.1 percent from the field and went 5-for-10 from the 3-point line while SIU struggled from the field in the first period. The Salukis shot 11 of 29 from the field (37.9 percent) and only hit two of seven 3-point field goals (28.8 percent).

The Bluejays opened a nine-point lead in the second half and looked to break the game open with a double-digit lead. With the Qwest Center crowd donned in all white rallying behind its team, the Bluejays looked poised to do so.

That is when the Salukis shot themselves back into the game. SIU chipped away at the Creighton lead and tied the game at 39 when senior guard Wesley Clemmons converted a 3-point play with 13:49 remaining.

After a defensive stop, the Salukis took their first lead since the game’s opening minutes when Dillard nailed an open 3-point field goal from the right wing with 12:33 left in the game.

But in the end, Dillard’s heroics were hampered by his own mistakes.

Lowery said the difficult loss would be a learning experience for his freshman star.

‘You hate to have to lose and learn at the same time but this is a valuable game for him,’ Lowery said. ‘He’s a very good player he and is going to be a very good player here, but you can’t be casual and a very good player at the same time.’