Salukis glide past Illinois State 66-59, Wichita State in Valley standings Twenty-two points, plus triple-word-score, plus fifty points for using all my letters. Game’s over. I’m outta here.

By Gus Bode

NORMAL – SIU men’s basketball games away from Carbondale have been met with unusual apprehension from Saluki fans.

The Salukis eased that tension with a 66-59 victory Wednesday at Illinois State, at the same time setting themselves free of a first-place tie in the Missouri Valley Conference with Wichita State, which lost at home to Creighton.

“We were just going to take care of our business,” said SIU head coach Chris Lowery.


Save for a 10-0 Illinois State first-half run, the Salukis were in control the entire game and led by as much as 11 points in the second half.

SIU (21-6, 12-3) extended its 30-24 halftime lead to 10 points on a trey from Jamaal Tatum and a Darren Brooks jumper just one minute, 35 seconds into the second half.

Illinois State (16-9, 8-7) trimmed the deficit to three points, 37-34, on back-to-back three-pointers from Trey Guidry and Gregg Alexander. But a trey from Brooks followed by a free throw and jump shot from Tony Young put SIU up 43-34.

Illinois State crept to within six, 56-50, on one of four long-range bombs from Gregg Alexander with 1:13 left and came out of a 30-second timeout in a full-court trap.

The Redbirds, though, failed to cover Josh Warren, who was the deep man in the Salukis’ press breaker, and converted a pass from Stetson Hairston for a lay in.

Missed free throws and another trey from Alexander kept the hope of an Illinois State comeback alive. But Hairston, Brooks and Tatum knocked down eight free throws down the stretch, and time eventually ran out on the Redbirds.

Tatum led the Salukis with 15 points, 10 of which came in the final 20 minutes. Brooks scored 13 points to go along with a game-high 10 rebounds. Matt Shaw finished with 12 and Hairston added 11.


SIU shot 43.6 percent for the game and held Illinois State to a 36.8 percent clip.

Lorenzo Gordon led the Redbirds with 13 points but was held in check for much of the game. He scored just five points on 2-of-6 shooting in the first half and was met by a second Saluki defender on nearly every post feed he received.

“We really wanted to take Lorenzo Gordon out of the game, and that was our biggest thing,” Lowery said.

There was a stoppage in play at the 11:03 mark in the second half when Hairston fell to the court after colliding with his own teammate, leaving many of the 7,547 fans in attendance in silence.

Hairston lay motionless on the court for a couple of minutes but walked to the bench under his own power and returned with 6:02 left in the game.

“I guess he was out for a couple minutes,” Lowery said. “He’s fine. He said, ‘Let’s go to Kent State,’ and I said, ‘No, we need to go home first.'”

The victory was the Salukis’ fourth straight, while Illinois State fell for the third time in seven days.

A tip dunk from Greg Dilligard and a three-pointer from Trey Guidry capped a 10-0 Illinois State run, giving the Redbirds a 22-18 advantage, their biggest lead of the game.

SIU took a 26-24 lead on a driving up-and-under lay in by Randal Falker. His shot was part of a 12-2 Saluki run that ended the first half.

The Salukis play Saturday at Kent State before their showdown with now second-place Wichita State Feb. 26.

“We have to keep on playing,” Tatum said. “It’s not over yet.”

Reporter Drew Stevens can be reached at [email protected]