Daily Egyptian

Payback delivered: SIU men’s basketball dominates SIUE

Missouri+Southern+junior+guard+Melton+Sanders+%2822%29+pulls+down+a+rebound+past+senior+forward+Sean+O%27Brien+%2833%29+on+Wednesday%2C+Nov.+16%2C+2016%2C+during+the+Salukis%27+85-64+win+over+the+Missouri+Southern+Lions+at+SIU+Arena.+%28Ryan+Michalesko+%7C+%40photosbylesko%29+
Missouri Southern junior guard Melton Sanders (22) pulls down a rebound past senior forward Sean O'Brien (33) on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, during the Salukis' 85-64 win over the Missouri Southern Lions at SIU Arena. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Missouri Southern junior guard Melton Sanders (22) pulls down a rebound past senior forward Sean O'Brien (33) on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, during the Salukis' 85-64 win over the Missouri Southern Lions at SIU Arena. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Ryan Michalesko

Ryan Michalesko

Missouri Southern junior guard Melton Sanders (22) pulls down a rebound past senior forward Sean O'Brien (33) on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, during the Salukis' 85-64 win over the Missouri Southern Lions at SIU Arena. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

By Sean Carley

Senior forward Sean O’Brien had Friday’s game against SIU-Edwardsville circled on his schedule for a long time after the Cougars beat the Salukis for the first time ever last season.

The way he played on Friday proved his readiness.

O’Brien was everywhere on the court with a game-high 22 points, nine assists and nine rebounds in addition to a block and a steal.

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The rest of the team joined him to decimate the Cougars 101-83 in Edwardsville.

SIU coach Barry Hinson called O’Brien’s performance “the best performance he’s ever had an individual player make.”

“There was no worse feeling than losing to them on our home court,” O’Brien said of last season’s matchup. “Our whole team had a ton of motivation from the get-go.”

Senior guards Leo Vincent and Mike Rodriguez joined him in the offensive showing with 20 points each.

The 101 points were the most scored in a game by a Hinson-led Saluki team.

“We can score, I don’t think [101 points] is an anomaly,” Hinson said. “Now we can’t stop my grandson from getting to the basket.”

SIU likely would’ve won by even more, but it allowed the Cougars to shoot 47.4 percent from the field and attempt 37 free throws, making 24 of them.

“We surely can [play better] defensively, but not offensively,” the Saluki coach said. “That’s probably the second-best performance I’ve had in 36 years. This was a big, big deal to us. That one hurt last year.”

The Cougars actually traded leads with SIUC early on, at one point holding a 20-19 lead. Then the Salukis went on an 18-2 run to blow the game open at 37-22.

SIUC then extended its lead throughout the first half to 54-33 at halftime.

O’Brien, Vincent and Rodriguez had each reached double-digit scoring before the halftime buzzer.

Even sophomore forward Rudy Stradnieks had tied a career-high with seven points before halftime.

The Salukis shot 73.3 percent overall in the first half, the best percentage for a Hinson team. They shot 68.5 percent for the entire game, just short of the school record of 70.5 percent achieved in 1973.

The second half began the same way the first ended with the Salukis jumping out on an 11-0 run.

“The most impressive thing we did tonight was the way we came out and started the second half,” Hinson said.

The Saluki lead grew to as much as 31, but SIUE was able to crawl back a little as SIUC got into foul trouble.

Junior forward Thik Bol, and sophomore forwards Austin Weiher and Rudy Stradnieks all fouled out of the game. Sophomore guard Armon Fletcher and O’Brien had four each.

“I subbed everybody there at the end or we would’ve set every school record offensively,” Hinson said. “It’s pretty hard to guard when [the officials] are going to call 30 fouls.”

Fletcher had a solid performance in his homecoming game. The Edwardsville native had 11 points with three rebounds and three assists in his first college game in his hometown.

“I had a lot of family and friends here,” Fletcher said. “I couldn’t ask for anything else. My birthday is tomorrow so this was like an early birthday present.”

SIU will have a couple days to rest from three games in five days before facing Mount St. Mary’s at 7 p.m. Monday in SIU Arena.

Sports editor Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SCarleyDE.

To stay up to date with all your SIU basketball news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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