Daily Egyptian

SIU men’s basketball upsets Missouri State on the road

Senior+guard+Mike+Rodriguez+attempts+a+basket+during+SIU%27s+78-70+victory+against+UT-Martin+on+Thursday%2C+Dec.+22%2C+2016%2C+at+SIU+Arena.+%28Jacob+Wiegand+%7C+%40jawiegandphoto%29
Senior guard Mike Rodriguez attempts a basket during SIU's 78-70 victory against UT-Martin on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Senior guard Mike Rodriguez attempts a basket during SIU's 78-70 victory against UT-Martin on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Senior guard Mike Rodriguez attempts a basket during SIU's 78-70 victory against UT-Martin on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Sean Carley

SIU men’s basketball went to Springfield, Mo., on Saturday nearly double-digit underdogs, but left with an upset and possibly the biggest win so far this season.

Southern led almost from start-to-finish to defeat Missouri State, 75-67, extending its winning streak to three games.

While SIU (10-7, 3-1 Missouri Valley Conference) was able to hold the lead for most of the game, it had to withstand multiple comeback efforts from Missouri State (11-6, 2-2 MVC), which earned just its second home loss this season.

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The Salukis made nine of their 11 free throws in the final two minutes to ice the game. Free throws were likely the difference in the match as SIU hit 20 of its 24 (83 percent), while Missouri State only made 10 of its 18 (56 percent).

After extending the lead to 11 early in the second half, its largest lead of the game at that time, the Bears began to come alive. They then went on a 10-0 run, thanks to the awakening of sophomore guard Jarred Dixon, who led Missouri State with 15 points.

At that same time, MSU switched to a 1-3-1 zone that stumped the Saluki offense.

Senior guard Mike Rodriguez hit one of his three 3-pointers to stop the bleeding and get SIU’s offense back on track. He led the way for the Salukis with a game-high 22 points on just eight shots.

The Dawgs were without the services of senior forward Sean O’Brien for most of the second half because of foul trouble. The Mundelein native fouled out of the game with 7:10 left to play, but others stepped up in his absence.

O’Brien’s most immediate substitute, junior guard Jonathan Wiley, continued the gritty play that earned him more playing time in recent games, scoring four points but also contributing seven rebounds and three steals.

Each time Missouri State seemed to be back within striking distance, a Saluki would hit a 3-pointer to push the lead back out to safer reaches.

Sophomore guard Sean Lloyd hit one with 7:29 left to push the lead back to five points. He had another solid game with his third consecutive start in place of injured guard Armon Fletcher with 10 points.

SIU was not alone in missing a key player as Bears junior guard Ronnie Rosseau was also out of the game because of injury.

Southern’s knockout punch finally came when Rodriguez drove and found sophomore forward Rudy Stradnieks at the 3-point line for his first made shot of the game. Stradnieks would finish his solo run with two free throws the next possession to extend the lead to 10.

The Salukis will try to run their winning streak to four games at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a matchup of top-four MVC teams when they play Illinois State (11-4, 3-0) in SIU Arena.

Staff writer Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SeanMCarley.

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

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