Men’s basketball: Defense propels Southern past Loyola Ramblers


Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz

Southern Illinois Salukis guard Aaron Cook attempts to get around Loyola Ramblers guard Clayton Custer on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, during a matchup between the Southern Illinois Salukis and the Loyola Ramblers at SIU Arena.

By Tamar Mosby, Sports Reporter

 Southern Men’s Basketball battled through their last Sunday home game, taking on the Loyola University Ramblers in a hard fought conference matchup.

“We proved to ourselves confidence wise that we can play with anyone in the league,” said Saluki head coach Barry Hinson. “This was a gut-wrenching, grinded out, hard game. Everyone played well and made an impact.”

The Salukis defeated the Valley number one seed Ramblers 63-53 in tonight’s game.


“It feels great because we definitely needed this win going forward,” Cook said. “They are a really good team who we’ve struggled to compete against, so it feels good to get a win on them.”

The win was crucial for the Dawgs, with seeding for Arch Madness around the corner.

“Today was a huge deal for us,” said senior guard Armon Fletcher. “Going into the tournament we have to get every win we can.”

Porter Moser, Loyola Ramblers head coach, echoed sentiments around the Valley – nothing is black and white.

“Everyone in the league can beat everyone. You don’t get a break on any game you play,” said Loyola head coach Porter Moser. “Every single game there are good players who are well coached. This will be the craziest St. Louis I’ve been apart of.”

Entering tonight’s matchup, the Salukis held a sixth place position in the MVC along with Illinois State who held an identical record, while the Ramblers were caught up in a tie for first with Drake.

The teams will have met for the 15th time after this evening’s game with Southern now leading in the previously tied all-time series at 8-7.


Loyola center Cameron Krutwig sounded off to begin the first quarter scoring two straight baskets on the SIU defense. Next to score for the Ramblers was guard Clayton Custer with a drained three pointer from the wing.

It took nearly three possessions for the Dawgs to score as junior guard Aaron Cook scored a layup and one possession later, a bank shot three pointer to make the score 8-5.

During this time, senior guard Sean Lloyd Jr. was taken out of the game and walked to the locker room after sustaining an injury on the floor.

With the Southern struggling to create an offense, the Ramblers took advantage and scored on their next two possessions. After five minutes passed in the half, senior center Kavion Pippen came to life for SIU scoring three straight baskets which put the Dawgs within one at 12-11.

After a media timeout, substitutions were made for the Salukis. One of the subs was that of senior center Thik Bol who scored a hook over Krutwig on his first possession of the game to put SIU up by one.

“Kavion and Thik played unbelievable defense tonight,” Fletcher said. “Rudy also came in and gave us some really good minutes too. That was a big emphasis for us tonight.”

The lead flip flopped three more times until a free throw from Fletcher tied it up at 16-16.

Fletcher led the Dawgs in scoring tonight with 18 points and came second in rebounds with seven.

The score continued to remain close until Loyola score three unanswered baskets to pull ahead 22-17.

Two layups from Fletcher and spectacular defense by Southern held the Ramblers at 24 and put the Dawgs just three points behind at 21.

On the following possessions SIU struggled against the shot clock, but finally found its rhythm after a three point jumper by senior guard Marcus Bartley tied the score again at 26-26.

At the other end of the court, Bol dominated the floor forced two offensive fouls on Krutwig who was leading Loyola in scoring at the time. Despite the fouls given to their center, the Ramblers were still able to maneuver through the tight defense to score.

“I thought the key today was our defense,” Hinson said. “We guarded really well in transition. Thik changed the game for us defensively on Krutwig. The two charges he drew were huge.”

When the one minute mark hit, Fletcher drained a three pointer to give Southern the lead at 29-26. After the three pointer, the Dawgs were given another chance to score, but were rushed into a wild jumpshot after nearly receiving a shot clock violation.

Loyola (17-12, MVC 10-6) scored the final basket of the half just as time expired to put themselves up 30-29 entering halftime.

Krutwig kicked off second half scoring for the Ramblers with a mini hook shot over Pippen to push the score to 32-29. Fletcher responded to this on the next possession making a tough shot in the paint to keep the Dawgs within three. Krutwig scored 17 of the Ramblers’ 53 points.

Loyola continue to make baskets but Southern took off on a run that featured two baskets from Lloyd and a dunk from Pippen to take the lead at 38-36.

Shortly after the run, the Ramblers responded with two baskets to put themselves up 40-38 right before the first media timeout of the second half.

After the timeout, Bartley scored a deep three pointer for the lead and got a charge immediately after on the defensive end to get the Saluki crowd on their feet.

A basket by Pippen furthered the SIU lead to 43-40 and took away a large amount of Loyola’s ever present offensive momentum.  

“We shot terrible and passed terrible,” Moser said. “We didn’t have enough guys playing well. This late in conference play you have to find ways to win and we didn’t do that.”

Pippen finished the night one rebound shy of a double-double as he scored 12 points and grabbed 9 boards.

Three straight Rambler baskets on the next possessions gave the Chicago team the lead once more with the score at 47-43. This run could not put the Dawgs down and they continued to fight scoring two back-to-back baskets to sneak back within one point of their opponents.

With Loyola having scored a single free throw to make it a two-point game, a jumper in the paint from Pippen tied it up at 48-48.

Just seconds later, senior guard Eric McGill and Fletcher scored two layups to give the Salukis a three point lead and send the crowd into an “S-I-U” chant.

“Eric was huge in this game. I would say he was the turning point,” Cook said. “He does the little things that you can’t see in the stat sheets and he made it happen for us.”

A pair of free throws by Fletcher gave Southern their biggest lead of the game at 54-49.

A block on the defensive end by Pippen stopped the Ramblers from scoring and gave him his 100th career block making him only the seventh player in program history to do so.

With just a minute to play in the SIU Arena the crowds cheers were deafening as the Salukis led the number one seeded Loyola team 57-53 after a step back three pointer from Cook boosted the score.

This play earned Cook tonight’s player of the game recognition as he finished with 12 points and four assists.

With time winding down the Rambler had no choice but to foul Southern in order to gain more possessions. These fouls sent McGill to the line twice and Fletcher once.

The free throws along with tough defense sealed the Dawgs exciting 63-53 win over Loyola.

“I feel like our execution was on point pretty much all game,” Cook said. “I feel like we did a good job offensively and defensively and when we needed to win we made it happen.”

“This game was a confidence booster if anything,” Hinson said. “We responded really well to a previous loss, but we have to come out and compete this way the next game.”

The Saluki Men (15-14, MVC 8-8) will take the floor again on Wednesday in Evansville, Indiana to take on the Purple Aces. Tip off is set for 6 p.m.

“Overall, I think we’re getting better as a team,” Fletcher said. “That’s what we want to do coming into the tournament. We want to get better and get these last few wins.”

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

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