Salukis shoot down Illinois State Redbirds in comeback win


Brian Mu–noz

Junior guard Sean Lloyd Jr. drives the ball past Illinois State defense Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, during the Salukis’ 74-70 win against the Illinois State Redbirds at SIU Arena. (Brian Mu–noz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Dillon Gilliland, Sports Reporter

Prior to Saturday evening’s contest, the SIU men’s basketball team lost its three previous matchups against the Illinois State Redbirds.

The Salukis ended their cold streak against Illinois State (9-9, 3-3 MVC) with a late comeback that earned a 74-70 victory.

“It was just a typical Illinois State, Southern Illinois game,” coach Barry Hinson said. “It was just a typical Missouri Valley Conference basketball game.”

With Southern trailing by as many as 14 points in second half, SIU cut the deficit to one point with just over three minutes remaining.

Junior forward Armon Fletcher pulled off a clutch steal, followed by a dunk that gave SIU its first lead of the game. Fletcher —who led the team in scoring with 26 points — immediately followed his dunk with a 3-pointer which earned Southern the 67-63 lead.

“We were very poised today,” Fletcher said. “There was no doubt in my mind that we weren’t going to win this game.”

The Redbirds showed their dominance in the first ten minutes of the first half as they opened the contest with a 19-6 run led by sophomore guard Matt Hein’s two 3-pointers.

The Salukis battled back from a slow start as senior guard Tyler Smithpeters sank two 3-pointers of his own that boosted Southern to an 18-8 run.

Illinois State held onto its lead for the remaining two minutes and went into halftime with a 30-27 advantage.

The Redbirds quickly extended their lead to 39-30 early in the second half led by junior forward Phil Fayne’s 14 points.

“We gathered as a team and said we’re going to fight,” junior guard Sean Lloyd said. “We just kept fighting, kept fighting and things turned our way.”

Shortly after, Southern fought their back and brought the game with one at 63-62.

The Salukis held onto their lead for the remainder of the game as they took the 74-70 win over the Redbirds.

“If we would just stay locked in and not be immature and think the game is over, we could have kept the lead,” Illinois State coach Dan Muller said. “But eight turnovers later and 13 out of 15 scores, we lose.”

Up next, Southern (11-8, 3-3 MVC) will head to Chicago for a matchup against the Loyola Ramblers on Jan. 17. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

“Every time we win a big game, then the next game we let down,” Hinson said. “It’s like going to the buffet and when you get home your wife asks if you would like some more of this or that and you say no I’m full, I’m satisfied. We have to leave the buffet lane early.”

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

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