Salukis come alive at the end of the second half, beat UT-Martin

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From left: sophomore forward Austin Weiher, sophomore guard Sean Lloyd and junior guard Jonathan Wiley react to a play near the conclusion of SIU's 78-70 victory against UT-Martin on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Jonathan Thompson

After taking control during the second half, SIU men’s basketball pulled off a 78-70 win Thursday against UT-Martin.

The Salukis turned the game around after the Skyhawks went on an 8-0 run to start the second half, giving UT-Martin the largest lead of the game and putting them up 35-26.

SIU trailed for most of the second half until freshmen guard Aaron Cook knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game at 53.

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Junior forward Thik Bol and sophomore guard Armon Fletcher followed suit to score back-to-back dunks, giving the Salukis a 57-53 lead with 7:20 to play.

SIU coach Barry Hinson reacts to a play during the Salukis’ 78-70 victory against UT-Martin on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

SIU then went on a 7-0 run and traded baskets with the Skyhawks to extend the Salukis’ lead to 10 with 1:02 seconds left.

A breakaway alley-oop by Fletcher would be all the momentum SIU needed to win the game.

The sophomore finished with 22 points, two assists and three rebounds.

The first half was much closer, with neither team able to get a lead larger than four.

UT-Martin is continuing a trend of teams running a zone against the Salukis. SIU would commit 12 turnovers in the first half and both teams would give the ball up 15 times each.

The Dawgs struggled to put points on the board at the start of the game with senior forward Sean O’Brien and Fletcher scoring the only points for the Salukis during the first half.

O’Brien had 14 of his 18 points during the first two quarters, while shooting an impressive 81.8 percent from the field, adding three rebounds and two assists.

SIU gave up a lot of offensive rebounds in the first half, letting UT-Martin grab 11. In spite of this, the Skyhawks only had an 18-15 total rebound advantage.

The teams were tied at 26 going into the second half.

Junior guard Matthew Butler scored the most for the Skyhawks with 19 points. He also added five assists and two rebounds.

The Salukis will play their next game at 7 p.m. Dec. 29 against Bradley in Peoria.

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

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