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Saluki basketball opens season with an exhibition win against East Central

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Saluki basketball opens season with an exhibition win against East Central

Freshman Aaron Cook, 10, dribbles past East Central College’s players to the basket in SIU’s 76-49 win, Nov. 1, 2018, inside SIU Arena. (Chase Jordan | @chasejordande)

Freshman Aaron Cook, 10, dribbles past East Central College’s players to the basket in SIU’s 76-49 win, Nov. 1, 2018, inside SIU Arena. (Chase Jordan | @chasejordande)

Freshman Aaron Cook, 10, dribbles past East Central College’s players to the basket in SIU’s 76-49 win, Nov. 1, 2018, inside SIU Arena. (Chase Jordan | @chasejordande)

Freshman Aaron Cook, 10, dribbles past East Central College’s players to the basket in SIU’s 76-49 win, Nov. 1, 2018, inside SIU Arena. (Chase Jordan | @chasejordande)

By Adam Warfel, Sports Reporter

SIU took a win in their opening exhibition to East Central 76-49.

“When the lights come on it takes that process of adapting,” Coach Barry Hinson said. ”We’re playing basketball under the lights with a crowd.”

The Southern Illinois men’s basketball team was recently ranked 10 among mid-major programs.

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The Salukis are returning all five of their starters from last year.

Lucas Hunter, a Carterville native, was recognized before the game as former manager of SIU basketball and now assistant coach of East Central.

Preseason first-team All-Conference, senior forward Armon Fletcher sat out of the game under concussion protocol.

This game was the first back for senior forward Thik Bol after recovering from a knee injury in the previous season.

“Glad to have him back on the court, blocking shots,” Pippen said. “He’s just a big piece on the team that we needed back.”

Junior guard Aaron Cook scored the first points of the game for Southern on a three-pointer putting the Salukis ahead 3-0.

At the first timeout of the game the Dawgs were ahead 7-4 on a field goal by senior forward Thik Bol.

Senior guard Marcus Bartley threw an alley-oop to freshman guard Darius Beane for the score extending the lead 9-4.

East Central got their first lead of the game after back-to-back three point shots making their lead 10-9.

After a three-pointer by senior guard Sean Lloyd Jr. the Dawgs went back ahead 14-13 with 11:31 remaining in the half.

Lloyd finished with 14 points and two rebounds on 50 percent field goal shooting.

The Salukis lead 21-19 with 7:17 remaining in the first half after junior guard Cameron Talley of East Central made a three-pointer.

Talley finished with 25 points on 66 percent shooting.

East Central reclaimed the lead after a three-pointer by senior guard Jamey Woods with under seven minutes remaining in the half 22-21.

A tip-in basket by sophomore guard Brendon Gooch put Southern back ahead 26-25 with just over three minutes remaining.

After a four more lead changes the Salukis led at halftime 31-29.

SIU got the first score of the second half on a layup by senior center Kavion Pippen putting the Salukis ahead 33-29.

A dunk by Pippen gave the Dawgs their biggest lead of the second half 44-39 with 15:20 remaining in the half.

“He’s our release, if we get in trouble he’s the one we give it to,” Cook said. “We can almost bank on him making a shot every time we give it to him.”

After a scoreless first half, Pippen put up 14 points in the second to co-lead the team in scoring while adding a team leading eight rebounds.

“I just take blame for the first half,” Pippen said. “I wasn’t really aggressive. I came out, coach got on to me and teammates told me I had to pick it up.”

The Salukis went on a 15-4 run giving SIU their biggest lead of the game 52-41 with 12:39 remaining in the second half.

Beane scored his first points as a Dawg pushing the Southern lead to 56-41 with 10:04 remaining in the half.

Off an assist by Cook, Bol scored on a layup, putting the Salukis ahead 60-42.

Cook finished with a double-double with 10 assists and 13 points on 62.5 percent shooting. He finished just two rebounds short of a triple-double.

“I wish nobody would have told me,”Cook said. “I probably would have got the two rebounds.”

After two free throws by Lloyd, SIU stretched their lead even further to 65-42 with under six minutes remaining.

Freshman forward Sam Shafer scored on a layup putting SIU up 76-47.

“Sam can shoot the basketball,” Hinson said. “He’ll open up defenses by the way he plays.”

Beane dribbled out the rest of the clock for the Salukis as they won their exhibition game 76-49.

The Dawgs will be back in action Friday Nov. 9th at Kentucky. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

“We are excited about the challenge,” Hinson said. “We are excited and humble that Coach Calipari would allow us to play this game.”

Sports reporter Adam Warfel can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.

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