Illinois State cruises past Men's Basketball, 66-48

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    Jan. 5, 2014

    By Tom Weber

    Final Stats |  Photo Gallery 

    NORMAL, Ill. - Illinois State held Southern Illinois to just 17 second-half points, pulling away for a 66-48 win in front of about a thousand fans at Redbird Arena who braved blizzard-like conditions to see the long-time MVC rivals battle on Sunday. The 17 points, coming on 5-of-20 shooting, were just two shy of the school-record low of 15 set against Kentucky Wesleyan in 1965.

    The Salukis (4-11, 0-2) jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first two minutes of play, but the instant offense proved to be an illusion. Southern made its first two 3-point attempts but missed its next 11 tries.

    After the sluggish start, the Redbirds (8-6, 1-1) used a 17-4 run to seize control and never look back.

    "I thought we might come out slow and we did," said ISU second-year head coach Dan Muller. "Getting back late after a tough overtime loss (at Missouri State), no crowd, an earlier game -- those can be tough. We did not come out with much urgency. I'm happy we got it fixed quickly."

    Southern stayed close in the first half until a late flurry by the Redbirds lifted them to a 38-31 halftime advantage. Zach Lofton hit a 3-pointer with 1:16 to go in the half, and Bobby Hunter was fouled with 0.4 seconds to go and made all three of his free throw attempts. Lofton broke out of a shooting slump and finished the game with 18 points, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. In the previous seven games, he was 6-for-34 from outside the arc.

    Desmar Jackson scored 19 points to lead Southern, but his teammates combined to make only 10-of-40 shots from the field and no one else scored in double figures.

    For a brief moment, it looked like SIU would make the game competitive in the second half. Jackson scored seven points on three breakaways to draw Southern within 41-38 with 14:46 remaining. The offense went into a deep funk, though, with just one bucket in the next eight minutes.

    "We just quit," said SIU head coach Barry Hinson. "When you come over there in that huddle, it's awful. You have guys pointing fingers at each other. I had to slap their knees one time just to get them to look at me in the face. It's an awful feeling. We have some issues right now."

    The Salukis seemed to wear down in the face of ISU's full-court press, turning the ball over eight times in the half. The three starting guards combined for two assists and seven turnovers, as they struggled to navigate the Redbirds' zone defense.

    "I think what Dan has done is really impressive, bringing this many new guys in and changing the style of play he's used to playing," said Hinson. "You have to give him credit for what he's done with these guys."

    The Redbirds lost all five starters from last year's team and return only two minor role players in Kaza Keane and Nick Ziesloft.

    "We have the least-experienced team in the country," Muller said. "If I hold them accountable enough and get them to do the right thing, they'll gain confidence, because the right thing works. We've been very hard on them throughout the year, and the habits we've developed are showing."

    Two players who Southern typically relies upon to score -- Anthony Beane and Jalen Pendleton -- each made just one field goal and combined to go 2-for-13 from the field. Hinson said there would be changes when the Salukis play at Loyola on Wednesday.

    "I promise you we won't start the same lineup," he said. "We will shake it up. I'm going to play guys that want to play hard, guys that want to give effort and do what we ask them to do."

    Hinson described it as an adversarial relationship with his players at the moment.

    "We're in a fight for sure," he said. "I told them I just checked my contract, I know who is going to win."