Brooks steals the show

By Gus Bode

SIU guard sets record in 75-66 win over Drake

SIU guard Darren Brooks stole the show, both literally and figuratively.

The junior single-handedly led the Salukis (5-0, 1-0 Missouri Valley Conference) to a 75-66 win Saturday over conference foe Drake at the Knapp Center in Des Moines, Iowa.

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Brooks finished the night with 24 points, 10 rebounds, eight steals and four blocks. The only other SIU player in double-digit scoring was freshman guard Jamaal Tatum with 11.

“People got their money’s worth,” SIU head coach Matt Painter said on the postgame radio show. “[Brooks] was a one-man show out there.”

The four blocks was a career high for Brooks, and he missed setting a new career high for points by just three and in rebounds by two.

His eight steals set an SIU record. The previous school record was six, held by Brooks and five other players.

“Coach told us to get in the passing lane,” Brooks said on the postgame radio show. “They make dangerous passes at times, so I was just trying to be aggressive.”

The Salukis needed such a game from Brooks as they had to hold off a second-half rally by Drake (2-3, 0-1 MVC) to get the win in the league opener for both teams.

“We had to come out and play hard, be aggressive and just get a head start on the rest of the teams in the conference,” Brooks said.

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Some of SIU’s players came out too aggressive, with starters Stetson Hairston and Brad Korn both fouling out. They were not the only players in foul trouble as Brooks, Bryan Turner and Josh Warren all had three in the game.

Hairston was whistled twice in the first couple of minutes of the game and another at the start of the second half causing him to only be able to play 11 minutes. He was productive in his limited playing time, scoring five points, grabbing five rebounds, dishing out two assists and nabbing two steals.

“We did a poor job of adjusting to the officials,” Painter said. “They called it very close, and instead of our guys adjusting and not reaching and not being as physical, our guys just kept fouling them, kept kind of reaching, kept giving them an opportunity to call things.”

Drake also had a hard time adjusting to the officials as Nick Grant and Klayton Korver, the younger brother of former Creighton star Kyle Korver, both fouled out and another four players had at least three.

The 56 combined fouls made it hard for either team to get into a rhythm offensively, especially in the first half.

SIU shot just 38 percent in the opening period, but Drake was especially pathetic, scoring just 18 points on 4-of-24 shooting while committing 15 turnovers. The Salukis were not able to capitalize and went into halftime up just 34-18.

“We didn’t put the game out of reach in the first half and we should have and it about cost us,” Painter said.

The Bulldogs came out in the second frame and got their offense going, outscoring SIU 48-41 in the half, but Brooks, who scored 14 of his 24 points in the period, would answer anytime Drake closed the gap.

A 12-2 run midway through the second half allowed Drake to narrow the score to 47-39, but Brooks was there to stop the bleeding.

He would score six of SIU’s next seven points and stretch the lead back into double digits. The Bulldogs would not be able to get within three possessions the rest of the way.

“My team needed me,” Brooks said. “I’m willing to step up whenever they need me.”

With the win, the Salukis improve to 5-0 for the first time since winning their first six games of the 1993-94 season. SIU started out 4-0 each of the last two seasons but lost the fifth game both years.

This was expected to be an off-year for the Salukis after losing head coach Bruce Weber and two of the school’s best players ever in Kent Williams and Jermaine Dearman.

But those left behind would have nothing to do with that and are sending a message to the rest of the MVC with their early season success.

“I think the rest of the teams are probably a little nervous right now,” Brooks said. “They see we’re playing well and we got a head start on everybody else, so I think they might be a little intimidated.”

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