M bball: Salukis make history

By Gus Bode

Five years ago, the Salukis made it to the Sweet 16 for the second time in school history, but 2007 has brought even more success and accolades to the program.

SIU defeated Virginia Tech Sunday to advance to its third Sweet 16 ever, the latest accomplishment this season.

“It’s gone by so fast, you know, I really haven’t had time to think about it,” sophomore guard Bryan Mullins said. “After the season, when you look back about what kind of season we’ve had and how many close games we’ve won and where we’ve gone and won, it’s pretty special but we’re still focused on winning right now.”

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The Salukis climbed as high as No. 11 in both major polls this season, eclipsing the school record of No. 14, set in a record six-week stay in the top 25 in 2004.

SIU (29-6) ended this season at No. 14 in the Associated Press poll and 13th in the ESPN/USA Today Poll, but the streak was halted at five weeks because of the NCAA Tournament, which had the Salukis at a school-best No. 4 seed.

With the win over the Hokies Sunday, SIU recorded its 29th win of the season, another school record.

“It feels good that all the stuff we did, as hard as we worked, you know what I’m saying, it all paid off,” senior guard Tony Young said. “We’re still going, we’ve still got things we want to do, still got stuff we want accomplished.”

Young surpassed former Saluki Darren Brooks’ record of 106 wins at SIU Sunday, winning his 107th.

“It feels good just to add something else on your legacy, doing so much more stuff and finally accomplishing something and going back to the Sweet 16,” Young said. “It just feels good to be a part of something, be a member of something.”

Up next for SIU is Kansas, tip-off set for 6:25 p.m. CST Thursday at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. The Jayhawks (32-4) finished the season ranked No. 2 in the country and as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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Senior guard Jamaal Tatum said with all the Salukis have accomplished, they should be considered on the same level as Kansas.

As for all of SIU’s accomplishments, Tatum said the Salukis still have plenty to get done.

“Like I’ve been saying, it’s been a nice run so far, but we’ve got plenty more winning to do,” Tatum said. “We can’t really think about all these accolades and what we’ve done till it’s all over.”

Junior forward Randal Falker said it felt great being a part of SIU’s success this season, but his biggest hope is that the success continues in the coming years.

“It’s great to set records but it’s better when your records are broke, because that means your school is still successful,” Falker said. “To me that’s the biggest thing.”

Young said he shares Falker’s thoughts hope the success can be heightened in coming seasons, and Young has confidence in the abilities of those he will leave behind when he graduates because of his and Tatum’s senior leadership.

“You got to be confident in the people that are here already because everything that they know, we’ve taught,” Young said. “As far us being seniors, that’s our role to teach and to help these guys understand the things that we understand. So we feel confident in what we’ve taught them and what they know.”

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