Two road games. Two losses. One decided in the final seconds, the other in the opening minutes of the second half.

By Gus Bode

Darren Brooks and Jamaal Tatum combine for 38 points at Wichita State. Loss. At Southwest Missouri State they go for 44. Same result.

In the last two games, Brooks and Tatum by themselves have scored half of the Salukis’ points.

By comparison their starting mates – Stetson Hairston, LaMar Owen and Josh Warren – scored 11 points at Wichita State and 10 at SMS.


Owen and Warren had little, if any, impact in those two games, spending more time on the bench than on the court in favor of Matt Shaw and Randal Falker.

The Saluki big men shot 2-of-7 from the field, scored six points and grabbed eight rebounds between them at SMS. Against Wichita State, they finished with six points and five rebounds.

Hairston, though, has had the biggest struggle.

After nailing a trey two minutes into Wednesday’s game, he proceeded to miss his next 10 shots, finishing with four points on 1-of-11 shooting. He is now 2-for-23 in the last three games.

Although he finished with seven rebounds and three assists, Hairston’s help on the offensive end is sorely missing.

“Stetson Hairston has to step up and make plays,” SIU head coach Chris Lowery said after the game. “At this point, he is too advanced to not play in the big games.”

Saturday’s contest with Evansville (10-8, 4-6) wouldn’t normally be viewed as a big game, but after two straight losses and three road games lurking around the corner, SIU needs every confidence boost it can get.


And the Purple Aces could be the perfect target.

SIU (15-5, 6-2) has won its last eight meetings with Evansville, including a 69-57 victory Jan. 12. The Salukis trailed 7-0 in that game but responded with a 24-3 run, allowing just one field goal in a 10-minute span.

Key to the comeback was the play of Hairston, Owen and Warren.

Hairston scored just nine points but shot 4-of-8 from the field – the last time he’s connected on half of his shots in the last five games. Owen and Warren shot 8-for-11 from the field, scoring 16 points to go along with 11 rebounds.

Clearly, the Salukis need these three to produce in order to be effective.

Evansville trailed by as much as 24 in the second half and never seriously threatened but did close to within nine points late in the game. Andre Burton led the Purple Aces with 15 points and eight rebounds.

After Saturday, SIU will play three straight road games over a nine-day stretch against Bradley, Northern Iowa and Drake.

Lowery called this the toughest stretch of the season, saying the next four games would be an indication of his team’s character. So far SIU hasn’t gotten off to a good start.

How the Salukis come out Saturday will be very telling.

“I know [Evansville’s] going to come in and play hard,” Jamaal Tatum said Wednesday. “I know they’re going to fight.

“Every game in the conference is going to be a good game.”

Saturday’s may not be if the Salukis play like they did Wednesday.

Reporter Drew Stephens can be reached at [email protected]