SIU gets fifth conference win in a row over Drake

By Brooke Buerck, Sports Reporter

With less than five minutes of play remaining, Drake made a 17-10 scoring run against the Salukis in hopes of defending their home court winning streak, but it wouldn’t prove enough to find a win over SIU.

The Salukis used a powerful performance in both halves to take down the Bulldogs 79-72 for their fifth consecutive Missouri Valley Conference win and second true road game win. 

“Really proud of the guys,” Saluki head coach Bryan Mullins said. “I thought we started the game off well and then we started the second half off really well, and I think the guys were ready. We knew how well Drake plays at home, how hard of a place this is to play [in] and their winning streak, and the guys took that as a challenge.”

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Prior to tonight, Drake had held a 15-game winning streak at home. 

“That makes it feel even better. We knew coming in here they’d play really well at home, and our knock on us is that we’re as good on the road. So to come in here and beat a really good home team and break their streak, that felt great,” freshman guard Marcus Domask said.

With the win, Southern (13-10, 7-3 MVC) advances to second place in the conference standings after also defeating Loyola Chicago 68-63 this week on Jan. 29. 

“I think the guys were locked in to start the game, and we really did execute well. The movements were pretty crisp, the passes were good, guys had shooting passes… obviously when Marcus and [senior guard Eric McGill] are shooting the ball that well, especially in the first half, that gives the rest of the team confidence,” Mullins said. 

Domask finished the night with a career-high 28 points on 8-for-13 shooting and making five out of nine 3-pointers. The freshman guard also went 7-for-8 from the free throw line. 

“I just try to read what they’re doing. If they’re going to guard me with the big guy, I’m probably not going to post up as much. But, they were kind of switching a lot and then they had a couple of smaller guards on me, so I just had to take advantage of what was there for me,” Domask said.

Mid-way through the first half of play, the Salukis went on a 14-point run that would help secure a 42-29 lead at halftime. 

Domask had 15 of his points after the half, while McGill had 12 of his 19 total points for the night in the first half. 

Both athletes played upwards of 38 minutes for the night as well. 

“I think in the second half you kind of get into a rhythm and a flow,” Mullins said. “You try to give them some breathers in that first half, and then in the second half depending on how the game is going, obviously we’d love to play those guys 35 or 32 [minutes], but they’re playing right now at a high level that we need them on the court.” 

Following halftime, Southern extended their lead to their largest of the game, 50-29. 

Drake responded, however, with a 10-point run of their own in hopes of finding a way back in the game. 

“We had a couple of turnovers, a couple of quick shots, they made some 3’s… our second half of defense wasn’t as good as our first half defense because they got to go up and down a little bit more, and we’ve got to be able to close out games and execute a little bit better,” Mullins said. 

Southern maintained their composure against a Drake crowd, but things came down to the wire when the Bulldogs put up another 17 points in the final five minutes of play.

Drake came within six points of the Salukis, but SIU’s free throws in the final minutes secured them the win without allowing their opponent a chance back in the game.

“I think that we just stay calm, because on the road it’s easy to get sped up with the crowd getting into it and them kind of getting in your head, but I think we just stayed calm and [kept] in control,” Domask said.

Southern Illinois’ other double-digit scorer for the night was graduate student center Barret Benson, who finished with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Drake’s sophomore guard Garrett Sturtz led the Bulldogs in scoring with 18 points, while junior guard Noah Thomas added 13. 

The Salukis’ next conference matchup takes place on Feb. 5 at University of Evansville. 

Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.

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

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