His body language suggested it Tuesday, his performance reiterated it Wednesday and he confirmed it over the phone Thursday – Darren Brooks has the flu.

By Gus Bode

He spent his day off in bed, consuming Tylenol, orange juice and water as if they were candy. The only thing he craved more than a victory against Indiana State Wednesday was the bed he gave his interview from.

“I was just glad it was over,” Brooks said. “I was ready to go home.”

Brooks said his temperature has all but returned to its normal state, and he expects to be ready for Saturday’s clash with Creighton.

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The same cannot be said for SIU students.

Only a quarter of the approximately 2,000 tickets reserved for students have been gobbled up. If students don’t pick up the remaining tickets today, they will be sold to the general public Saturday.

Home dates with Creighton have translated into sellouts the last two seasons, but as of 3 p.m. Thursday, only 500 student tickets had been picked up.

Fans could be holding out for Feb. 26, when Missouri Valley Conference leader Wichita State comes to town.

Or perhaps the rivalry has lost some of its appeal with Creighton in a two-way tie for fourth place as opposed to battling SIU for the regular season crown.

No matter how many fans file into the SIU Arena, the game still holds a special meaning for the players on each team, especially with it being televised nationally on ESPN2.

“It’s still our rival and we still get fired up to play them,” Brooks said, “And I’m sure they feel the same way about us. It’s still going to be a fun game.”

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The Bluejays (15-9, 7-6) have had anything but fun since mid-December.

Creighton reeled off seven consecutive non-conference victories and were arguably one of the hottest teams in college basketball with wins against Missouri, Ohio State and Xavier, all in a row.

That fire, though not completely extinguished, has been cooled as Creighton has gone 8-9 since. Creighton has won two of its last three games, surviving a late rally by Northern Iowa for a one-point win Wednesday.

With each team’s three-guard lineup pouring in 34 points a night, the game will likely be decided in the backcourt.

It doesn’t end with the starters either, as both teams look for sparks off the bench from a pair of guards – Creighton’s Kellen Miliner and SIU’s Tony Young.

Miliner is averaging 10 points a game for the Bluejays in 25 minutes of play. He scored 11 points in the first meeting between the two teams this season, a 69-63 SIU victory.

Young is averaging just 6.9 points a game but has been on a tear lately scoring eight or more points in the last four games, hitting and tying a career-high of 16 points in two of those contests.

But after having played four games in eight days and with a flu virus cycling through the team, the main focal point for the Salukis Thursday was rest, and much of it.

“We have to heal our wounds, get rested, come back, get focused and then be ready to play Creighton,” said SIU head coach Chris Lowery after Wednesday’s game.

The Salukis, and in particular Brooks, will be ready tomorrow night.

“I didn’t get a chance to really do anything [Wednesday],” Brooks said, “So I’m looking forward to Saturday, getting out there 100 percent and giving a better effort.”

Reporter Drew Stevens can be reached at [email protected]

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