Saluki men pounce over Winthrop 81-66 in season opener


Coach Barry Hinson talks to senior forward Sean O’Brien in the middle of a timeout Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, during SIU’s 85-84 overtime win against the Missouri State Bears at SIU Arena. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

By Ryan Demer

SIU men’s basketball ran over the Winthrop Eagles in Friday night’s season opener 81-66.

The Salukis saw themselves neck and neck with the reigning Big South Conference champions in the first half.

The teams traded buckets until junior center Kavion Pippen broke the game open by scoring 6 consecutive points that made the score 31-20 in SIU’s favor.


The Eagles had no answer for Pippen early on, as he scored 12 in the first half alone, finishing the game with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He also blocked three shots on the night.

Winthrop eventually closed the margin to 40-39 with Southern still leading, until a scoring burst that was capped with a jumper by senior guard Tyler Smithpeters ended the half with the score 47-41. Smithpeters scored nine points in his first game back since the injury he suffered last season.

Southern began to take over the game in the second half with stingy defense and good ball movement.

Over the course of 4 minutes, SIU put together a 9-0 scoring run that began with a 3-pointer from junior guard Eric McGill and ended with a jumper from junior guard Armon Fletcher that made the score 60-47.

Winthrop eventually brought the game to single digits, but the experience of Southern allowed them to close the game.
Two consecutive Saluki steals by McGill led to transition baskets late in the second and brought the lead to 72-56.

SIU’s late run proved to be the nail in the coffin. The Salukis increased their lead through the remainder of the game with a 3-pointer from junior forward Rudy Stradnieks and free throws by sophomore guard Aaron Cook.

Much of the win had to do with the Salukis domination on the boards, as they outrebounded the Eagles 42-27 despite lacking senior forward Thik Bol.


The Salukis created efficient scoring opportunities on offense with 13 assists, although SIU’s 18 turnovers were three more than Winthrop. Southern was also lights out from 3-point range, shooting at a 41 percent clip.

Four Salukis finished the game in double figures, led by junior guard Sean Lloyd and Kavion Pippen with 15 points each. Fletcher — whose playing status was questionable in recent days due to injury — finished with 14, while McGill registered 12 points.

SIU now will turn their attention toward Illinois-Springfield for the home opener next Saturday night. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.

Sports writer Ryan Demer can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @RyanDemer_DE 
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