Salukis win thriller versus University of Northern Iowa

By Zach Kramer, Sports Reporter

The Salukis (10-10, 4-3 MVC) got off to a slow start against the University of Northern Iowa, but it was their play for the rest of the game that got a crowd of 4,319 on their feet at Banterra Center. 

SIU brought the number one team in the MVC down in a hard-fought 68-66 win. 

“It was a great win for our program,” Saluki head coach Bryan Mullins said. “I’m proud of our guys you know we’ve been getting better every single day and I’m just happy for the guys to be able to get this result. I thought they played extremely hard and really stuck to the game plan.” 

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The Panthers started the game on a 6-1 scoring run within the first minutes of the period one, but from then on the Salukis took charge with career-best performances from freshman guards Lance Jones and Trent Brown.

“Obviously we got the first free throw to go in,” Brown said. “It just took one to go in to find rhythm and show that we can play with people. Obviously 6-1 jumps out at the beginning of the game, but it is really only a five point deficit so it can kind of be misleading at the beginning but once we kind of get up and down we can go with the best.”

Jones led the Salukis in scoring with 20 points (14 in the first half) and Brown chipped in 11. 

It’s my teammates,” Jones said. “It’s my teammates finding me open spots and me just stepping up.”

Freshman guard Marcus Domask also contributed 11 points along with six assists, while graduate student Barret Benson tallied 13 points and six rebounds. 

For UNI, junior guard Trae Berhow was the top performer with 22 points. 

 An 8-0 scoring run for Southern gave them their first lead of the game with Jones leading the run with four points.

Southern would keep on hanging on to its 28-24 lead with 3:35 left to play in the first half with the help of three 3-pointers from Jones.

“I’ve been working on my three point shot,” Jones said. “It may not show in the game, but I’ve been working my threes for the past few weeks in practice so it was all about confidence for me. Coach preached on that in pregame, just playing with confidence and once I see my first one go in it gave me great confidence.”

At the half, SIU led Northern Iowa 28-26 with Jones in the driver’s seat having scored 14 points.

Berhow was the top scorer for the Panthers at halftime with 15 points.

The Salukis started off strong coming out of halftime as they had a 46-36 lead with 14:25 left to play in the second half.

Southern’s offense dominate in the second half as Jones would make another three extending their lead 55-39 with just over 10 minutes left to play. 

A 16-2 Northern Iowa scoring run over the next six minutes to get within just two points of SIU bringing the lead to its knees. 

The Panthers looked to score in the final seconds of the game, but the Saluki defense proved to be tough as UNI (16-3, 5-2 MVC) was unable to get to the basket. 

“We were ready to double him,” Mullins said. “We’ve got to do a better job closing out the game and I’ve got to do a better job with our press breaker, but our guys still made some big plays throughout the game and put us in a position to win and that is what I’m proud of.”

Brown would defend UNI’s sophomore guard AJ Green on the final shot of the game for the Panthers which helped the Salukis win the game.

“He caught it off the top,” Brown said. “He took a few left hard dribble drives and I just did my best to stay with him. He is a phenomenal player and he shoots the ball almost on top of his head which is really hard to contest, so you just have to do the best you can and luckily for us it rimmed out.”

The game ended with a pair of free throws from Saluki senior guard Eric McGill, who went one-for-two from the line. The free throw from McGill allowed Southern to clench the 68-66 win. 

“It feels good,” Jones said. “I thought that the team really played hard and we did whatever it took to come away with that victory.”

SIU held Northern Iowa to 43.4% field goal shooting, while they shot at 48.2% for the night. 

“This was just a big win for us and we have to build on this for our next game against Illinois State,” Mullins said.

The Salukis’ next game will be on the road this Saturday against the Illinois State Redbirds at 2 p.m.

Sports reporter Zach Kramer can be reached [email protected]

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