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Salukis take control in second half in victory against Saint Louis (PHOTOS)

Senior+guard+Leo+Vincent+looks+to+shoot+a+basket+past+Saint+Louis+freshman+forward+Elliott+Welmer+on+Wednesday%2C+Dec.+14%2C+2016%2C+during+the+Salukis%E2%80%99+70-55+win+against+the+Billikens+at+SIU+Arena.+%28Athena+Chrysanthou+%7C+%40Chrysant1Athena%29+
Senior guard Leo Vincent looks to shoot a basket past Saint Louis freshman forward Elliott Welmer on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, during the Salukis’ 70-55 win against the Billikens at SIU Arena. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

Senior guard Leo Vincent looks to shoot a basket past Saint Louis freshman forward Elliott Welmer on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, during the Salukis’ 70-55 win against the Billikens at SIU Arena. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

Senior guard Leo Vincent looks to shoot a basket past Saint Louis freshman forward Elliott Welmer on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, during the Salukis’ 70-55 win against the Billikens at SIU Arena. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

By Jonathan Thompson

After trailing for most of the first half, SIU men’s basketball took control in the second Wednesday, lifting it to a 70-55 win against Saint Louis.

The Salukis were able to string together multiple runs that would lead to their victory.

The first was a 7-0 run two minutes into the second that gave them their first lead of the game since the opening minutes.

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SIU would then piece together another 7-0 run to push its lead to eight, then a layup by senior forward Sean O’Brien extended the lead to 10.

Senior forward Sean O’Brien looks to shoot a basket Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, during the Salukis’ 70-55 win against Saint Louis University at SIU Arena. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

That would be the final nail in the coffin and SIU would cruise on to victory.

O’Brien finished with a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds — he also added two assist and two steals.

He and sophomore guard Armon Fletcher were two of the key cogs in SIU’s offense Wednesday. Fletcher had a career-high 21 points on 7-11 shooting.

Coach Barry Hinson went with a new starting lineup for the first time this season, swapping senior guard Leo Vincent for sophomore guard Sean Lloyd.

Sophomore guard Sean Lloyd makes his way onto the court prior to the Salukis’ 70-55 win over Saint Louis University on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Lloyd would hit a big three in the second half that helped extend the Salukis’ lead.

“A big play for us was when Sean Lloyd hit the three,” Hinson said. “I had just said when Sean got scored on, I yelled at my staff, ‘Sean’s scared to death,’ and when he caught the ball, he shoots a three and then he hits it, then he looks right at me. I guess that’s how you got to coach guys from Philly.”

The game started off close with the teams trading the lead five times. Neither team was able to gain a large advantage, with Saint Louis having the largest lead with nine points.

The Billikens went on a 9-0 run after a tie to give them that lead.

Ryan Michalesko

Salukis stand for the National Anthem prior to their 70-55 win over Saint Louis University on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Both teams came out aggressive with full court presses from the opening whistle. SIU was more successful and was able to force the Billikens into 12 turnovers.

The Dawgs would force 21 turnovers on the game while only giving up eight themselves.

“Our whole message was we have to be more aggressive defensively,” Hinson said. “We have to do a better job guarding, and we have to do a better job defending the three.”

The defending the 3-pointer part of the message was answered in the second half, as SIU held SLU to 2-9 from beyond the arc after allowing 7-12 to go in in the first.

SIU got some big contributions from some of its newer players such as freshman guard Aaron Cook and junior forward Thik Bol.

Freshman guard Aaron Cook and Billiken junior guard Aaron Hines grapple for a loose ball during the Salukis’ 70-55 win over Saint Louis University on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Cook finished with two points, three assists and three steals and Bol finished with 14 points, two blocks and four rebounds.

“Aaron Cook played a phenomenal game,” Hinson said. “He shut them down literally by himself defensively. I was really impressed with what he did.”

Hinson also had high praise for Bol, saying, “in the past we could’ve not did what Thik Bol did today offensively.”

SIU coach Barry Hinson exits the court following the Salukis’ 70-55 win over Saint Louis University on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

The two were the spark the Dawgs needed and they fought their way back into the game, trailing 32-30 going into halftime.

The Salukis play their next game at 9 p.m. CDT Dec. 19 against UNLV in Las Vegas.

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

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

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