The SIU men’s basketball defeated the Missouri State Bears on the road in Springfield on Saturday night, 79-77.
Southern’s victory pulled the Salukis into a second-place tie with Drake. The victory was also the sixth straight for SIU against MSU.
The Salukis jumped out to a quick 11-2 run in the first five minutes of the game behind six points from junior guard Armon Fletcher. Fletcher finished with a team-high 18 points and grabbed four rebounds.
Missouri State — the preseason favorite to win the Missouri Valley Conference — rallied back and brought the score to single digits, but Southern was hot from 3-point range throughout the first half. SIU’s 6-9 shooting from beyond the arc in the first half helped secure a 42-31 lead at halftime.
The second half saw MSU senior forward Alize Johnson take off.
In the second frame, Johnson — the MVC Preseason Player of the Year — scored 19 of his 29 points total points and completed his double-double with 12 rebounds. Johnson’s efforts were not enough for MSU, as the Bears never claimed a lead in the game.
After Johnson earned a clutch bucket that tied the game at 77, junior center Kavion Pippen — who finished with 17 points, three assists and seven rebounds — found Fletcher wide open for what proved to be the game-winning layup.
Three other Salukis — senior guard Tyler Smithpeters, sophomore guard Aaron Cook and junior guard Marcus Bartley — racked up double-digit point totals.
Smithpeters dropped 15 points, five rebounds and two assists while Cook added 11 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Bartley added 10 points and three assists.
The Salukis will battle for sole possession of second place in the MVC when the face the Drake Bulldogs in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 30. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Sports writer Ryan Demer can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @RyanDemer_DE
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