Jan. 3, 2010
By Tom Weber
NORMAL, Ill. - Behind the hot shooting of Lloyd Phillips, Illinois State handed Southern Illinois its first loss in almost a month, 68-61, on Sunday.
The Redbirds (11-3, 2-1) trailed by five at halftime, but Phillips scored 14 of his game-high 21 points in the second half to rally his team. The senior guard had been mired in a season-long shooting slump. He came into the game converting 26 percent from 3-point range, but made but 4-of-6 on the night.
"I have never worried about his offense," said ISU head coach Tim Jankovich. "I know he's been worried about it, but he's a very talented offensive player. What I have been so proud of is, through it all, he's become a better leader and point guard."
The Salukis (9-3, 2-1) had their six-game winning streak snapped, and head coach Chris Lowery saw a common thread in the team's three defeats.
"In our three losses, we've had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio, and it happened again tonight," he said of his team, which committed 14 turnovers to go with just 11 assists. "We didn't share the ball."
After Illinois State jumped out to a 20-10 lead, Southern finished the half with a 19-4 run capped off by a Kevin Dillard 3-pointer just before halftime. The sophomore guard led the team with 16 points but also committed a season-high six turnovers.
"In the first half, I thought they out-hustled us to some loose balls and got some extra possessions that they turned into buckets," said Jankovich. "I thought the second half, we turned that around."
The game was tied, 47-47, with 8:39 remaining, but ISU went on an 11-0 run during the next four minutes to pull away. Phillips hit a trey during the run, and Dinma Odiakosa made three layups.
"We really kind of melted down with our play," Lowery said. "We began to play rogue defense, gambling with our play, instead of playing position defense like we did for the majority of the game."
SIU held the preseason player-of-the-year, Osiris Eldgridge, to 14 points, but 12 of them came in a second half in which ISU out-shot Southern, 52-36 percent.
"It's completely my fault, and I take the blame for not getting our guys ready to play in the second half, but you have to give them credit," Lowery said. "Osiris got going. He really made a decision to try to make them go."
The Salukis cut deficit to 61-54 on a 3-pointer by Tony Freeman with 3:27 remaining. After a missed shot by Illinois State, SIU had a golden opportunity to cut the lead to five, but Justin Bocot missed a transition layup.
"I saw the late rally two nights ago on film (at Bradley), and that's exactly went through my mind," said Jankovich, of Southern's penchant for late rallies. "It was the same situation with about a minute-forty to go, and I was thinking, 'they still know how to win this game.'"
Lowery felt his team settled too often for jump shots -- 26 of the team's 55 shots were from 3-point land.
"We took threes that were too long, too early," he said. "We shot a lot of one and two-pass shots. We needed to go inside more. We got them in foul trouble, but we shot too many threes, instead of going inside. Anthony Booker got them in foul trouble, and we needed to go to him more."
Booker finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Only one team remains unbeaten in the Missouri Valley Conference. Northern Iowa brings its 3-0 record to Carbondale Wednesday night.