Daily Egyptian

Four game funk: Salukis fall to an 0-5 Bradley, extend losing streak

By Tamar Mosby, Staff Reporter

The SIU Men’s Basketball team (9-10, MVC 2-4) hosted the Bradley University Braves (9-10, MVC 1-5) for the first time this season, falling 57-54 in this evening’s game.

Both teams entered tonight’s game looking to break conference losing streaks – Southern’s at three three straight losses and Bradley’s with five straight losses.

Prior to tonight’s matchup, the Salukis were ranked eighth in the MVC with a 2-3 record, while the Braves were ranked last with a 0-5 conference record. After this matchup, Bradley is now 1-5 in conference, while SIU is now 2-4

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Tonight’s loss to the Braves was the Salukis’ first loss in the historic series since 2013.  Southern now trails 49-46 in the all-time series.

“We were due for a win,” Brian Wardle, Braves head coach said. “It feels good to get the monkey off of our back, but it was a hard fought game. I’m proud of our guys for stepping up and making big plays.”

Bradley opened the scoring for tonight’s game with a two point jumper by senior forward Luuk Van Bree. After struggling to score for the first five minutes of the game, Southern was able to drain two back-to-back buckets, which were both from junior guard Eric McGill.

“We couldn’t really score inside the paint today,” Barry Hinson, Saluki head coach said.  “No one could score inside the arc. The only guy who really shot the ball well for us tonight was Thik Bol.”

McGill went on to score 11 points. An offensive put-back and three pointer by the Braves allowed them to steal the lead from SIU with the score at 7-5.

A layup down the right side of the lane by senior center Kavion Pippen then tied the game up at 7-7. Another three pointer and layup pushed Bradley into the lead once again to make the score 12-7.

The Braves continued to stay ahead until a putback layup by senior guard Armon Fletcher sparked momentum for the Dawgs as they went on a 5-0 scoring run to take the lead 26-19. Fletcher was tonight’s leading scorer with 13 points and five rebounds.

Scoring in the first half was closed with one free throw by Bradley leaving the score 26-20 at halftime. Similar to the first half, the second half scoring was opened by the Braves as junior guard Darrell Brown drained a three point jumper.

SIU’s first points of the half came on a layup from senior center Thik Bol. Bol’s layup kept the Salukis up 28-25.

“I’ve been feeling very good for the past couple weeks, so I’ve been working on posting up to get the ball and alley oops,” Bol said.

Bol led the way for SIU’s bigs scoring eight points and snatching down six rebounds.

Bradley continued to attack the basket and got to the free throw line making one of two shots. After the Braves’ free throw attempts, McGill sped down the court to drain his third three point shot of the game bring the score to 31-26.

Moments after this basket, Fletcher scored once more for the Dawgs on an offensive putback. Bradley continued on in their fight to gain the lead, but the Salukis proved too strong as they responded to every basket the Braves scored.

A three pointer from freshman guard Darius Beane put SIU ahead by seven points with the score being 42-35.

Despite BU draining, yet another three pointer and free throw, Southern continued to to apply pressure to the Braves’ defensive scoring two straight baskets to remain in the lead.

The opposing Braves showed no signs of quitting as they continued to score points in the paint and behind the arc.

“The guys stepped up and made plays,” Wardle said. “We executed, we stayed together and stayed mentally tough and we snuck out a good road win against a talented team.”

A Bradley three point jumper and three point play allowed them to score six quick points on the Dawgs and tie the game 47-47.

“A few times we were up and I felt that we were going to pull ahead, but they made tough shots,” Cook said. “They made some big shots and I have to give them credit.”

The game continued to tie up as both teams scored back-and-forth on each possession.

BU suddenly seemed to find their rhythm in the last two minutes of the game scoring two unanswered baskets to take the lead 54-50.

With just over a minute left in the quarter, Fletcher drove to the basket to score a layup for Southern and put them within two points of Bradley.

Bradley’s Brown responded to this call with a tough basket on the very next possession to put them up 56-52.

“It didn’t look like a normal shot and I didn’t think it had a chance, but it did,” Aaron Cook, Saluki junior guard said. “He is a good player and he made a good play.”

Cook then sped into the lane to score a layup to make it a two point game once again. He finished with 12 points and five assists.

With 19 seconds left in the game, the Salukis sent Bradley’s Luqman Lundy to the free throw line where he made one of two throws bringing the score to 57-54.

With the last 15 seconds on the clock, the Dawgs had the opportunity to execute one last play to tie the game but they were unable to get the ball into the hoop and lost the game 57-54.

“We weren’t executing as well as we should have and we weren’t running the offense with pace; that makes it hard for the offense to score,” Cook said. “We have to buy into the offense we’re running.”

Tonight’s conference loss was SIU’s fourth straight and many fans are wondering what has caused this sudden struggle in the Saluki men’s program.

Hinson attributes this four game funk to a lack of confidence amongst his players and a large amount of pressure to perform.

“That locker room is crushed,” Hinson said. “They are really struggling right now. I just think we don’t have a lot of confidence. For whatever reason, we are really feeling a lot of pressure right now.”

In order to relieve some of the pressure on his team, Coach Hinson plans to move the overall team goal in a new direction.

“We’ve talked so much about winning a conference championship,” Hinson said. “We finally got to the point where we decided to stop that and focus on playing one game at a time.”

Despite losing tonight’s game, Hinson and his team remain hopefully that the Dawgs can turn their season around in time for Arch Madness.

“I know everyone’s frustrated, but if anyone’s to blame it’s me,” Hinson said. “These guys are doing everything they can and I believe in them and I am proud of them.

Bol attributes the losses to injuries.

“I feel that because we’ve had so many guys in and out with injuries, it’s been hard for us to connect,” Bol said. “I think we’ll get the hang of it.”

The Salukis will take on the University of Northern Iowa Panthers this  Wednesday at 7 p.m. at SIU Arena.

Sports reporter Tamar Mosby can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @mosbytamar.

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