Daily Egyptian

Salukis bite Drake Bulldogs for fourth straight win

By Ryan Demer, Sports Reporter

The SIU men’s basketball team saved its best stretch of basketball for the most crucial part of the season. Now, over half way through Missouri Valley Conference play, the Salukis are in sole possession of second place in the league standings.

In their fourth consecutive win on Tuesday night, the Salukis defeated the Drake Bulldogs (12-12, 6-5 MVC) in Des Moines, Iowa, 78-67.

The game began with an initial scoring drought that spanned nearly two and a half minutes until sophomore guard Aaron Cook — who accumulated a team-high 18 points, four rebounds and one steal — scored the first points on two free throws.

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Drake and Southern then traded baskets until the Salukis delivered a 14-5 scoring run, capped off by two consecutive layups from junior forward Rudy Stradnieks — who scored eight points off the bench and converted on all four field-goal attempts.

Throughout the remainder of the first half, SIU kept Drake within 10 points until the Bulldogs hit a 3-pointer with less than 30 seconds left.

SIU remained strong and carried a 39-32 lead into halftime.

In the opening minutes of the second half, Drake rattled off an 11-0 scoring run that brought the score within one at 39-38.

Until the three minute mark of the second half, the teams battled for multiple lead changes.

With the game tied 67, junior guard Armon Fletcher — who scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds — sank two free throws that ignited an 11-0 Saluki scoring run.

Cook immediately followed with two straight layups, followed by a dunk from junior guard Sean Lloyd off of a steal.

The late run proved too much for the Bulldogs, who suffered their third consecutive loss.

Along with Cook and Fletcher, senior guard Tyler Smithpeters scored in double figures with 12 points and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. Junior center Kavion Pippen dropped 14 points, five rebounds and grabbed two steals.

The Salukis (15-9, 7-4 MVC) return to SIU Arena on Feb. 3 to face the Valparaiso Crusaders. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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

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

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