Hairston scores 17 in Saluki victory

By Gus Bode

Although Stetson Hairston was piping hot when he caught a pass behind the arc late in the first half of Saturday’s 71-67 victory against Creighton, he passed on the open shot and drove to the basket.

And even though 6-foot-8 forward Anthony Tolliver stood in his way, the determined Hairston didn’t let up, exploding through the air for a left-handed slam that sent the 9,207 SIU Arena fans into frenzy.

“It’s been awhile,” Hairston said of the jam that was part of an 8-0 run to close the first half that gave the Salukis the lead for good. “I’m getting kind of old.”


Aside from Hairtson’s second dunk of the season, by far the most emphatic, it had also been awhile since the senior guard put on a show for fans like he did Saturday. Hairtson scored 17 points, his most since scoring 18 in a loss at Louisiana-Lafayette, helped largely by his 4-of-8 shooting from the three-point line. He also grabbed six rebounds.

And then there was that dunk.

“I told him it reminded me of 2002,” SIU head coach Chris Lowery said. “I told him he needs to get his butt back to doing that all the time like he used to.”

Lowery also told Hairston he needed to step up his game when the Salukis traveled to Bradley Feb. 2, echoing what he’s said to the media numerous times this season – his senior guard is too experienced to not play in the big games.

A prime example:a first-place showdown at Wichita State when Hairston scored just five points on 1-of-5 shooting.

“I just told him, ‘you’re too old to be playing like this,’ and I think that was the big thing with him and he said, ‘you’re right,'” Lowery said. “He made adjustments. He’s been more mentally cut in.”

In front of the most energetic crowd of the season, a big-game atmosphere no doubt fueled by the presence of the ESPN2 cameras, Hairston played the way most have expected him to all season.


Hairston was extremely focused in the second half when he nailed three three-pointers during a five-minute span, each of which helped to keep the Salukis comfortably in the lead.

His four treys in the game were the most he’s made all season.

“It was about due,” Hairston said. “I’ve been working on it.”

While Lowery readily admitted Hairston was “hot today,” he was more impressed with the way Hairston guided the Salukis on the floor against Creighton’s confusing offense.

“If you’ve never seen it and you don’t know how to deal with it, that’s why so many young kids who see it for the first time really struggle with all the stuff they do,” Lowery said. “But Stetson was constantly talking, him and Josh. They really understand all of the small things and the cuts in their offense. He was more huge in talking than he was in his performance.”

Hairston was less inclined to talk about himself than he was to comment on the Salukis’ momentum that may be building. With five games remaining, Hairston said he hopes Saturday’s performance would carry over.

“I hope this is a good thing because everybody was on page tonight,” Hairston said. “The big guys stepped up big time and the guards, we helped them on the rebounding and they did a good job on their bigs down low.

“I hope we come together at the end because this is the perfect time.”

Reporter Adam Soebbing can be reached at [email protected]