Salukis bust Kent State

By Gus Bode

SIU on a roll heading back into MVC play

Kent State head coach Jim Christian wasn’t short on praise for SIU following his team’s 65-54 loss on Bracket Buster Saturday.

“They’re a great basketball team,” Christian said in a press release.

Advertisement

SIU is making it hard for anyone – especially the NCAA Tournament selection committee- to feel any different.

SIU (22-6, 12-3 Missouri Valley) came out firing, knocking down 6-of-12 three-pointers in the first half.

The Salukis’ hot shooting pushed the Golden Flashes back on their heels, took the 6,023 fans out of the game and led to a 12-point advantage at the break.

But neither the lead nor the subtlety of the Kent State fans would last.

SIU made just one field goal in the first 10 minutes of the second half and fell behind 45-40 as Kent State opened with a 25-8 run behind the momentum and energy of the crowd.

“During that run, that’s as loud as any place we’ve been all year,” said SIU head coach Chris Lowery.

The Salukis responded though with six unanswered points on lay ups from Matt Shaw, Josh Warren and Jamaal Tatum to take a 46-45 lead at the 9:12 mark.

Advertisement

Kent State never regained the lead.

The Salukis’ lead eventually grew to nine points, 56-47, after a couple three-pointers from Darren Brooks and two buckets from Shaw.

A three-pointer from Marcus Crenshaw with 1:09 remaining pulled Kent State to within six points, 60-54. Crenshaw finished with 10 points.

That was as close as the Golden Flashes would get as SIU sank five of its last six free throws to ice the victory.

“The tougher team won the basketball game,” Christian said. “When the game had to be won, [southern Illinois] got the toughness points.”

Kent State was shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc this season but connected on just 2-of-18 treys for an 11 percent clip.

Just one week after lighting Creighton up for 18 points in front of ESPN2 cameras, Tatum was back at it again. Tatum scored a game-high 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field and also hit 4-of-5 treys in the first half. Tatum also added four rebounds and four assists.

“[Tatum] was very special,” Lowery said. “We tried to do some things to isolate him. He just jumped out and made shots.”

Shaw scored 14 points to go along with eight rebounds. Brooks finished up with 14 points, five assists and three steals. Stetson Hairston added nine points and five rebounds.

SIU has now won five consecutive games, including three straight on the road, and has three more games remaining.

The Salukis host Northern Iowa Wednesday and second-place Wichita State Saturday before heading to Indiana State for the regular season finale.

“I knew we had a chance to be good, but we had to find ourselves,” Lowery said. “In a season, you’re going to have peaks and valleys. Right now, we’re headed in the right direction.”

Reporter Drew Stevens can be reached at [email protected]

Advertisement