Salukis earn first MVC win over ISU

By Brooke Buerck, Sports Reporter

The Salukis found their first win in Missouri Valley Conference play with a 67-55 victory over the Illinois State University Redbirds on Saturday at Banterra Center.

The Salukis (7-8, 1-1 MVC) have won three of their past four games, and improve their home record to 6-1.

The Redbirds (6-8, 1-1 MVC) entered today’s matchup coming off of their first MVC victory over the University of Northern Iowa Panthers, 76-70 on Dec. 31. 

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Southern had four players with double-digits in scoring for the evening, including freshman guard Marcus Domask leading with 16, graduate students Ronnie Suggs Jr. and Barret Benson with 13 apiece, and senior guard Eric McGill with 12.

The 13-point game was Suggs Jr.’s best as a Saluki.

Benson and McGill led SIU’s rebounding efforts with seven for Benson and six for McGill, while junior guard Lance Jones contributed five assists.

Illinois State’s offense was led by senior guard Jaycee Hillsman (13 points), freshman guard DJ Horne (11 points), and senior guard Zach Copeland (10 points).

Each Redbird that saw minutes in tonight’s game had at least one rebound, while Horne led with four rebounds, all on the defensive end.

Southern Illinois began to push away from Illinois State in the first half with a 9-0 scoring run near the 10-minute mark. 

Two layups from Redbird junior forward Keith Fisher III and a three-point play from Horne helped get ISU back into the game, but another nine-point push between McGill and Benson would help carry the Salukis into the second half with the lead.

SIU held a 10 point advantage, 29-19, over the Redbirds headed into the second period, with McGill leading Southern’s offense with nine points and Benson with seven.

Illinois State’s offense struggled from three-point range, hitting 0 out of 10 shots in the first period. ISU was 8-23 overall from the field.

SIU was 9-21 on shooting, but a 10-13 finish from the free throw line helped maintain the halftime lead.

Southern came out strong in the second half with Suggs Jr. hitting a three and Domask converting eight points himself, a layup and two threes, in less than a two minute span. 

Jones proved to be an important component to Southern’s offense in the second half, as the Saluki guard found all five of his assists in this period.

Jones was able to get Suggs Jr. and freshman guard Trent Brown into position for three-pointers, and Benson and junior guard Harwin Francois into position for layups. 

SIU out-rebounded the Redbirds 22-12 in the second half and 36-27 overall in the matchup. 

Southern returns to Banterra Center on Jan. 7 for their next conference matchup against the Valparaiso University Crusaders (7-7, 0-1 MVC). Tipoff is set for 7:00 P.M.

Sports reporter Brooke Buerck can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bbuerck25.

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