Southern gets its swagger back with 70-53 win over Evansville

By Tamar Mosby, Sports Editor

The SIU men’s basketball team took the floor at Banterra Center against the University of Evansville tonight with a chip on their shoulder after having lost their last two conference matchups.

“Our goal today was to get a win, just simply getting back to our rhythm and getting our swagger back,” senior guard Eric McGill said.

After a closely played first half, the Salukis improved their offensive execution and defense efforts to extend their lead from halftime and win the matchup 70-53.

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Freshman forward Marcus Domask led SIU on the offensive end scoring 19 points and snatching down seven rebounds. McGill contributed 18 points as well as four rebounds.

For the Purple Aces, senior guard K.J. Riley led the team in scoring with 10 points and three rebounds.

“That was a good team and they really played well, but in the second half, I feel like we just locked down defensively and played hard and we ended up stretching [the lead] out,” McGill said.

SIU shot at a 65.8 field goal percentage on the night, which was nearly twice as much as Evansville’s percentage of 38.2.

“I’m proud of our guys and how we played in the second half,” Saluki head coach Bryan Mullins said. “Offensively, I think we played pretty good throughout the game and defensively, we needed to play better in the second half and the guys responded again. They did a really good job of trying to keep the ball out of the paint in the second half and everyone contributed to that play.”

In the first five minutes of play, scoring was neck-and-neck between the two teams with the score set at 7-7 entering into the first media timeout. 

During this time, scoring was spread evenly among Southern’s starters with freshman guard Lance Jones, McGill and graduate student center Barret Benson all putting up individual baskets.

With just under 10 minutes left to play in the half, a 3-pointer from Domask put SIU up 23-20, but a quick basket from Evansville on the next possession narrowed this lead to one.

Two baskets from Domask and a pair of free throws from McGill gave the Salukis a lead of five points, which was the largest lead either team had seen in the half.

The Purple Aces strung together play-after-play to catch SIU, eventually taking the lead once again with a layup from junior guard Sam Cunliffe. 

Southern regained the lead in the final seconds of the half with two baskets from McGill to give the team a 40-37 cushion entering halftime. 

Domask was leading the Salukis on the offensive end with 14 first half points, while Cunliffe was leading the Purple Aces with eight points. 

By the end of the first half the score had tied eight times with the lead changing on 13 different occasions between the teams.

Benson got things started for SIU out of the gate in the second half with an “up-and-under” layup in the middle of the lane to push the team’s lead to 42-37.

“Evansville plays good defense, but I think that matchups with Barret down low […] one-on-one he just has that advantage,” Domask said. “I think that when we play through Barret, we just get really good looks down there.”

The Evansville defense began to run into foul trouble in the second half allowing Southern to capitalize on the opportunity by attacking the basket to get to the charity stripe. Graduate student guard Ronnie Suggs led this attack, getting to the line on two separate occasions to make 3-of-4 shots. 

By the end of the game the Salukis had gone 15-for-22 from the stripe giving the 68.2% on the night. The Aces only shot a total of eight free throws on the night making six total putting their percentage at 75.

With just under eight minutes left to play, an Evansville foul put Southern into the bonus sending Jones to the line. Two good free throws from Jones pushed SIU ahead 55-47.

Evansville reached their 10th team foul with just over five minutes left on the clock putting the Salukis into the double-bonus and allowing them to further their lead.

A 3-pointer from Domask and a layup from Jones got fans on their feet at Banterra Center as Southern had notched its largest lead of the game, 62-49.

SIU held the Aces to 49 points for four more possessions while lengthening their lead by four more points with a layup a piece from McGill and Jones.

In the final minute of the game, Evansville was able to tally two more baskets before time ran out, but by this time the Salukis had forged too large of a lead for the points to make a dent in the deficit. 

A dunk from Domask sealed the deal and gave Southern the win at 70-53.

“We’ve got a tough stretch now…four games in 10 days and obviously, going to Northern Iowa on Saturday is going to be a challenge for us,” Mullins said.

Next, the Salukis will travel to the University of Northern Iowa to take on the number one seeded Panthers. Tip-off is set for Sunday at 1 P.M.

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

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