Salukis defeat Indiana State, 82-77


(Anna Spoerre | @AnnaSpoerre)

SIU senior forward John Gardner jumps in the air after the Salukis score a basketball during SIU’s 82-77 win against Indiana State on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, at SIU Arena.

By Ryan Demer, Sports Reporter

The SIU men’s basketball team defeated the Indiana State Sycamores Wednesday night at SIU Arena, 82-77.

“Southern was ready to go tonight, as we knew they would be,” Indiana State head coach Greg Lansing said. “They were the more aggressive team at both ends of the floor.”

For most of the first half, both teams fought neck and neck with several lead changes.

Then, the Salukis exploded for an 18-6 scoring run over the last seven minutes of the half, capped off by a 3-pointer from senior guard Tyler Smithpeters in the closing seconds.

Due in part to the 18 points from sophomore guard Aaron Cook, the half ended with the score 41-29 in favor of the SIU. Cook finished with a career-high 25 points along with four assists, four rebounds and two steals.

“My teammates did a really good job of finding me in the first and second half,” Cook said. “Offensively, it was definitely one of my better games because my teammates knew I was hot.”

In the second half, Indiana State opened with five consecutive points and cut its deficit to single digits.

SIU rallied back, but the Sycamores continued to fight and remained within striking distance of the lead throughout most of the second half.

Cook was not the only “hot” Saluki in the first half. As a unit, Southern shot a dazzling 6-12 from 3-point range and 15-29 from the field.

“We were a really good offensive team tonight,” SIU head coach Barry Hinson said. “We were a really good defensive team in the first half and absolutely checked it in in the second.”

It wasn’t until the Southern went off on a quick 7-0 run that the Salukis reclaimed their double-digit lead with just seven minutes remaining.

However, Indiana State fought its way back once again with one minute left and brought the score to 75-73.

Led by Cook, the Saluki offense milked the shot clock down until Cook found junior guard Armon Fletcher for an and-one layup.

Immediately after, the Sycamores converted at the free throw line and brought the game within two points.

After junior guard Marcus Bartley hit two free throws, Fletcher — who finished with 17 points and five assists — drew a key charge that gave Southern possession with less than 20 seconds left in the game.

“Those type of plays, taking a charge, is a bit of a gamble,” Fletcher said. “I felt like we had enough momentum in the heat of the moment for the referee to call the charge.”

The Salukis resume action on Saturday in Springfield, Missouri in a matchup against the Missouri State Bears. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m.

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

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