SIU men’s basketball wins nail-biter against Texas Southern (VIDEO)

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Senior guard Mike Rodriguez goes up for a basket while being guard by Texas Southern junior guard Jalan McCloud and graduate center Marvin Jones during the Salukis’ 74-70 win over the Tigers on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Jonathan Thompson

The Salukis were able to hold off a late comeback Saturday and win 74-70 against Texas Southern.

SIU found itself in a similar situation as its last game — an overtime win against Murray State — in which the Salukis had a 3-point lead to defend less than 10 seconds left.

On Tuesday, they gave up the 3-pointer that sent it to overtime. This time, they were able to get a big stop and rebound to seal it.

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“That’s basketball right there,” senior guard Mike Rodriguez said. “You can’t fold under pressure. If you really want to win, then you got to show it right there. That’s crunch time.”

Saluki senior guard Mike Rodriguez goes up for a basket during SIU’s 74-70 win over Texas Southern on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)
Saluki senior guard Mike Rodriguez goes up for a basket during SIU’s 74-70 win over Texas Southern on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Rodriguez got his first double-double of the season, scoring 15 points and dishing 10 assists.

TSU was called for two technical fouls for unsportsmanlike conduct with less than 2:30 left to play, but SIU couldn’t take advantage and missed two of four free throw attempts. The Salukis were up, 71-70.

Sophomore guard Armon Fletcher was a force in the last few minutes of the game. He made four of his five rebounds in the final two minutes of the game and led the team overall with 18 points.

“The challenging thing for me with Armon right now is that I want him to be better than what he is,” SIU coach Barry Hinson said. “I think this kid is going to be paid to play basketball one day. That’s my vision for him.”

With a nine-point halftime deficit, Texas Southern had to claw its way back into the game by making six straight to open the second half.

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After having only two first half points, junior guard Kevin Scott was a catalyst for the TSU comeback, scoring 11 points in the second period. Meanwhile, junior guard Zach Lofton kept up his frenzied production, scoring 14 second-half points, 26 overall.

“We knew Lofton [was one of] their two best players,” Rodriguez said. “[He] could really shoot the ball. That was a tough matchup for us.”

 

After an ill-advised turnover by SIU senior guard Leo Vincent, Texas Southern took their first lead of the game up 51-50 with nine minutes left.

“We asked our guys at halftime, ‘Do you think these guys are going away?'” Hinson said of his team’s halftime complacency. “We just knew it would be tough.”

SIU was able to build its early lead with some great defense in the opening minutes that forced Texas Southern into some bad mistakes. The Salukis would take a 10-2 lead early.

TSU started the half by making only one of its first five shots, while turning the ball over three times.

Texas Southern coach Mike Davis reacts to a call during the Salukis’ 74-70 win over the Tigers on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)
Texas Southern coach Mike Davis reacts to a call during the Salukis’ 74-70 win over the Tigers on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

The Dawgs kept the Tigers from scoring for five straight minutes at one point in the first half, building up a 22-7 lead that would be the largest lead of the game.

The Salukis will have their final Power 5 conference test when they play at 6 p.m. Wednesday on the road against Louisville.

Staff writer Jonathan Thompson can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @TheReal_Jt3.

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