Move into first-place tie with Shockers

By Gus Bode

Dana Altman called it a killer.

Creighton’s head coach wasn’t talking about his team’s 71-67 loss Saturday, necessarily, but rather the Salukis’ run at the end of the first half.

A Jamaal Tatum jumper and a baseline dunk from Stetson Hairston erased a one-point Creighton lead, giving SIU a 33-30 advantage.


Trailing by three points with the ball and 44 seconds left, Altman wanted to get a two-for-one. Instead, LaMar Owen drew a charge on Tyler McKinney, Tatum sank another jump shot and Darren Brooks scored on a lay-up after stealing the ensuing inbounds pass, capping an 8-0 SIU run.

“We were trying to get two possessions and them have one,” Altman said. “And it ended up they had two and we had a charge.”

There were eight lead changes before the run. There would be none after.

Tatum led four Salukis in double figures with 18 points. Hairston followed with 17 points and Tony Young, who played limited minutes because of foul trouble, scored 10 off the bench.

“This is a good time for us to be coming together,” Hairston said.

SIU (20-6, 11-3 Missouri Valley) moved into a first-place tie with Wichita State, which lost at Bradley Saturday.

The Salukis’ lead would climb as high as 12 points, but Creighton just wouldn’t go away. Even as the Bluejays fell behind by double digits, the lead never seemed safe with Nate Funk’s scoring ability and Johnny Mathies’ aggressiveness leading to trips to the free throw line.


Funk scored a game-high 19 points and Mathies put in 11 of his 16 points in the final 20 minutes.

Creighton (15-10, 7-7) closed the gap to three early in the second half on one of Funk’s five three-pointers.

But whether it was clutch shots from Tatum and Hairston or Owen’s energy and defense – the Salukis had an answer.

“They hit big shots when they had to,” Altman said. “Every time we had a chance to make a little run, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”

Creighton did make things interesting late in the second half as Funk and Mathies traded baskets, but time ultimately ran out on its comeback attempt.

SIU shot 47.4 percent for the game, while holding the Bluejays to 37.9 percent. The Salukis also went to work on the glass, out-rebounding Creighton 40 to 30, the first time they’ve beaten an opponent on the boards in five games.

Hairston and Matt Shaw led the rebounding effort, ripping down six apiece.

This was the second straight game the Salukis won without a huge scoring effort from Brooks, who scored 10 points with six assists, four rebounds and three steals.

“That means we’re getting better as a team,” said head coach Chris Lowery. “We have to continue to get our other guys better along with him and I think that’s what you’re starting to see with the younger kids starting to break out, feeling more comfortable playing.”

The Salukis’ next game is at Illinois State, which is 10-3 at home this season, but has lost its last two games at Redbird Arena.

After Wednesday, SIU will host two of its three remaining conference games, including a Feb. 26 date with Wichita State.

“Those guys have to come back here and if we take care of business on Wednesday at Illinois State, I know it’s going to be tough for them to come in here and win,” Hairston said.

“I know on senior night those guys better be ready.”

Reporter Drew Stevens can be reached at [email protected]