Salukis complete comeback win over Valparaiso


Brian Munoz

Sophomore guard Aaron Cook attempts to get past Valparaiso guard Max Joseph, far left, and Valparaiso guard Tevonn Walker Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, during the Salukis’ 65 – 59 win against the Valparaiso Crusaders at SIU Arena. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Ryan Demer, Sports Reporter

In front of a crowd of 5,694 fans at SIU Arena for Maroon Out, the Salukis defeated the Valparaiso Crusaders (12-13, 3-9 MVC), 65-59.

The win marked head coach Barry Hinson’s 300th career win amid the team’s five-game win streak.

“God is good,” Hinson said. “I’ve had the opportunity to coach basketball for 37 years and God has blessed me with tremendous student-athletes, assistants and fans.”

Both teams shot 24-49 for the game, but SIU got to the free-throw line 24 times compared to Valpo’s 11 attempts.

“The difference in the game was free throws,” Valparaiso head coach Matt Lottich said. “It really came down to the fact that they got more points from the line than we did.”

The Salukis were knocked down early in the first half, as Valpo took a 19-12 lead.

Then, ignited by a jumper from junior center Kavion Pippen, SIU went on a massive 11-0 run that lasted almost six minutes.

Pippen finished with a game-high 21 points along with four steals and six rebounds.

“Coaches kept emphasizing to come out to fight and be aggressive,” Pippen said. “The student crowd definitely got us ready and hyped up.”

The Crusaders responded immediately with a 10-0 run of their own and reclaimed the lead late in the first half.

The half ended with the score at 31-25 in Valpo’s favor.

The second half saw a battle between the two squads, as both sides struggled to gain control of the game.

It was not until the final minute of the contest that the game was decided.

With the score tied at 59 and a minute left to play, SIU got the ball after a defensive stop. From then, the offense worked the ball around until junior guard Armon Fletcher drilled a wide open 3-pointer with 44 seconds left that claimed the lead.

Fletcher finished with 12 points and two steals on the night.

“I kind of had a thought before going down the court that I’m going to shoot a three and make it,” Fletcher said. “I noticed my man left me in the corner and he was slow getting over.”

A stop on defense and successful free throws from senior guard Tyler Smithpeters — who finished with eight points, four rebounds and two steal — officially sealed the victory for Southern.

The Salukis (16-9, 8-4 MVC) travel to Normal on Feb. 8 to face the Illinois State Redbirds. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.

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

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