SIU men’s basketball escapes narrow victory against UIS


Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz

Sophomore guard Aaron Cook defends the ball Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, during the Salukis’ 69-64 win against the University of Illinois Springfield Prairie Stars at SIU Arena. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Ryan Demer

SIU men’s basketball (2-0) defeated the University of Illinois-Springfield 69-64 Saturday night at SIU Arena.

The team played without junior guard Armon Fletcher, as he re-aggravated his injury. Fletcher marked the third Saluki starter out of the lineup to go along with junior forward Thik Bol and junior guard Marcus Bartley.

“Anytime you take three starters out the lineup, you need to play really special basketball no matter who it is,” Saluki head coach Barry Hinson said. “I think this win was really good for us.”


The Salukis jumped out to an early 7-0 lead against the Stars in the first half.

UIS started scoring in bunches and played tight defense, and eventually brought the score within 5 soon after Southern took a double-digit lead.

SIU came up with a huge play at the midway point of the half when junior guard Sean Lloyd came up with a loose ball after a scramble. They scurry for the ball was started by senior guard Tyler Smithpeters’ hustle and left both players with knee burns.

Lloyd quickly dished the ball to Smithpeters after he recovered from his sprawl, who quickly sunk the open 3-pointer and erupted the Saluki crowd with the score 21-13.

“That was probably the play of the game for us,” head coach Barry Hinson said. “To me, that’s Saluki basketball. Are you going to be Floor burn U or not?”

The Stars persisted, however, and in the closing seconds of the half, it looked like they were only going to be down 28-26.
Junior center Kavion Pippen wouldn’t allow that to happen, as he finessed his way to the rim for a layup just before time expired.

The second half saw much of the same story as the first, with the Salukis unable to distance themselves from the Stars.

Southern seemed to have pulled away after an and-one conversion by junior guard Jonathan Wiley brought the game to a 43-36 lead for SIU.

UIS fought back, however, and left the Salukis unable to create another double-digit lead.

A big 3-pointer by senior guard Eddie Longmeyer on his 15th point of the night saw the Stars create their first lead of the game with three minutes left to play.

Junior guard Eric McGill quickly responded with a 3-pointer of his own and reclaimed a 60-58 lead for SIU.

“I kind of smiled when he made that bank three,” McGill said. “I knew we were going to win, so I just found the open shot and hit it.”

Southern fed off the momentum and played tenacious defense that forced early and tough shots for the Stars. The Salukis came back on the offensive end with great ball movement and relentless pursuit of the ball on the glass.

Wiley came up with a clutch rebound and put-back that made it a two-possession game with two minutes left.

From there, the Salukis sank free throws after intentional fouls that iced the game.

Sophomore guard Aaron Cook finished the night with a team-high 20 points. He also tallied three rebounds and four assists. He was 3-5 on 3-pointers.

“I’ve been working really hard all summer on my 3-point shot,” Cook said. “It was good to see that the work finally paid off.”

Pippen recorded 11 points along with 7 rebounds on the night. Junior guard Jonathan Wiley also recorded 9 points and a game-high 8 rebounds.

The Salukis will now turn their attention toward the Louisville Cardinals. They travel to Louisville, Kentucky on Nov. 21 for their first game against a nationally ranked team. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m.

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