SIU’s last-second heroics seal sixth straight victory

By Gus Bode

The minute that saved the season

That was all it took for SIU to turn Southwest Missouri State from a potential NCAA Tournament, Cinderella and first-place team into a sobbing and inconsolable third place team.

The Salukis were the beneficiaries of two Kent Williams miracles in the final seven seconds as they nullified a five-point deficit in the final minute of Saturday’s win at SMS.


Williams, who won the game for SIU with a lay-up with 1.4 seconds to go, attributed SIU’s comeback to composure and experience in close games. The Salukis have won their last two games by a combined two points, and three of their last four games have been decided by three points or less.

We stayed calm,” Williams said of the final minute. “We knew we had to make some big plays. We knew there was time. It wasn’t time to panic yet.

“We’ve been in big games and we just relaxed and focused on the plays we needed to make and we did.”

Sophomore Darren Brooks started the rally when he picked off a cross-court pass as the clock hit the final minute, drove to the right side of the basket, found a moving defender, hit him and put down a short bank shot.

He made the free throw and cut the Bears’ lead to two with 54 seconds to play.

“He made that steal when it counted,” senior forward Jermaine Dearman said. “If he doesn’t get that steal we’re not in that position.”

SMS took the ball down the court, killed 34 seconds and drew a foul with a lone second on the shot clock. The Bears’ Monwell Randle made one of his two free throws, increasing the SMS lead to three.


Williams was then fouled shooting a three-pointer with only seven seconds left. He made two of the free throws and bricked the third off the back of the rim, but Sylvester Willis, who played only 11 minutes because of foul trouble, got his hands on the ball before an SMS player knocked it out of bounds.

In a case of incredible timing, Willis was substituted into the game before the final free throw.

“I said you’re going to go back in there and you’re going to play to make a play,” SIU head coach Bruce Weber told Sylvester Willis who, until that point, had been less than impressive.

Williams then took the inbound pass, ran off a Brad Korn screen and walked in for the easy lay-up. Weber described the lane as a parting of the Red Sea and was shocked by the lack of defense displayed by SMS.

The lane was open because McGee switched coverage to Walk after the screen, which was a pleasant surprise for Williams.

When I saw Walk was on me and I knew I could take him to the hole,” Williams said. “So I crossed it, went in the lane and I saw the back of everybody’s heads and realized I could get all the way in there”

Though Walk was the most obvious goat of the final seven seconds, SMS head coach Barry Hinson blamed the rest his team for not helping. One Bear had his back turned to Williams as he drove through the lane.

“We were gonna switch all screens,” Hinson said. “That’s why we went with a smaller lineup. It wasn’t Travis’ fault, really. It was our help line defense that let him come right down the gut

“Eight thousand people knew [Williams] was going to take the shot”

SMS did manage a final shot after a full-court baseball pass found Randle near the free throw line. It was a play that closely resembled Christian Laettner’s last-second heroics against Kentucky during the 1992 Final Four.

But unlike Laettner’s shot, Randle’s clanked the left side of the rim, losing the game for SMS and allowing the Salukis to breathe again.

Dearman said for him, time seemed to stop for the final 1.4 seconds of the game.

“When I turned around, the guy with the goggles, Horace Grant, that’s what I call him, he caught the ball and it seemed like everything just kind of paused,” Dearman said. “Time just stopped for that complete second. That second turned into eternity for me, but once I seen the ball bounce off, Stetson grabbed the rebound I knew it was time to celebrate.”

Reporter Michael Brenner can be reached at [email protected]