Daily Egyptian

Saluki basketball takes down North Carolina A&T on Military Appreciation Night

By Dillon Gilliland

The Saluki basketball team gave attending veterans a show on Wednesday evening as they put away the North Carolina A&T Aggies 102-64 on Military Appreciation Night.

“They’re the reason why we are here,” senior guard Tyler Smithpeters said. “They sacrificed so much for us to play the game of basketball.”

In its first-ever meeting with North Carolina A&T (6-6),  Southern donned red, white and blue uniforms in honor of the veterans in attendance and active military members.

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“It’s a big deal to us,” coach Barry Hinson said. “We’re wearing that uniform again. We don’t need to have military appreciation night to be patriotic.”

SIU fired on all cylinders out of the gate, as the Salukis knocked down three quick 3-pointers that earned an early 11-9 lead over the Aggies.

Southern then rattled off 10 straight points — seven from junior guard Sean Lloyd — that pushed the lead to 21-9.

The Saluki defense boosted the offense and SIU accumulated five steals and forced eight turnovers that built a 42-29 lead.

In the first half, Southern’s sharpshooters went 6o percent from the behind the arc on 15 shots. Junior guard Marcus Bartley led the squad with three 3-pointers and helped the Salukis claim a 58-37 lead at halftime, the fifth-most points scored in a first half in SIU’s history.

Along with consistent shooting, the Salukis showed plenty of teamwork in the first half as they amassed 17 assists and only two turnovers.

“When we share the ball like that, we really have a chance to be something special,” Hinson said.

Southern carried its first-half momentum into the second as the Salukis compiled a 13-2 run with seven points contributed by junior center Kavion Pippen, who finished the contest with 11 points and two rebounds.

The Salukis owned the court for the remainder of the game and Smithpeters nailed one last 3-pointer that sent the Aggies packing.

Smithpeters earned his first double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds. He also racked up five assists on the night.

“I have no excuses for how poorly I’ve been shooting,” Smitherpeters said. “It just nice to see a few of them go in.”

Junior guard Armon Fletcher was the leading scorer for the Salukis with a total of 20 points on the night.

Up next, the Salukis will head to the Las Vegas Classic on Friday where they will take on Nevada. Tip-off is scheduled for 10 p.m.

Sports reporter Dillon Gilliland can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @DillonGilliland.

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