Jan. 17, 2014
By Tom Weber
PEORIA, Ill. - Walk-on Mason Alwan came off the bench to score a career-high 12 points and help Bradley stop a three-game losing streak in a 66-60 win over Southern Illinois on Friday.
Alwan had not made a 3-pointer yet this season but connected on 3-of-4, as the Braves (7-12, 2-4) made 6-of-11 shots from outside the arc on the night.
The Salukis (6-13, 2-4) saw their chances for a two-game winning streak slip away when leading scorer Desmar Jackson was called for a charge -- his fifth foul of the contest-- with his team trailing by two with 1:41 to go. Although he led the club with 17 points, things quickly fell apart for his teammates without him on the floor in the closing minutes.
Auston Barnes, who took the charge on Jackson, hit a deep 3-pointer on Bradley's next possession. After Anthony Beane missed a jumper for SIU, Omari Greer made two free throws to give the Braves an insurmountable 63-56 lead with 48 seconds remaining.
"(This) shows you we're not a very good ball club when Dez is not on the floor," said SIU head coach Barry Hinson. "They made their run when Dez sat on the bench with (three) fouls. We got back with Dez in the game, and when Dez (fouled out) is when we couldn't keep up with them."
Southern got off to a good start offensively, hitting three 3-point shots in the first eight minutes to take an 18-11 lead. When both teams went to their benches, the momentum swung in Bradley favor. Alwan hit a 3-ball to give Bradley its first lead, 30-29. At halftime, Bradley's bench had out-scored SIU's, 9-0.
In the second half, Alwan connected on two more treys, exploiting SIU's zone defense.
"The first one -- ok -- we don't know much about him," Hinson said. "But the second two, we should have had a better feel for him."
Bradley head coach Geno Ford said he put Alwan in the game to give his team an emotional lift -- not for his shooting ability.
"We were really flat as a group -- we were in huddles trying to get some life, and thank goodness Mason sparked us on the offensive end," Ford said. "For me it starts with (his) energy and emotion, then it goes to post passing, and then the fact he made shots."
Beane had the hot hand for Southern in the first half with 13 points but had only two in the second half. Jackson picked up the scoring slack, converting 8-of-12 shots in the game, but two charging calls were his undoing.
"Desmar Jackson is a superstar as we knew he was," Ford said. "We box-and-one'd them, we went zone, we went man and denied him, we played man conventional. Jackson's not going to miss those little floater shots and we did a really bad job of keeping it away from him."
The Braves were guided by senior guard Walt Lemon Jr., who had 16 points and played the role of distributor with eight assists.
"We've been improving in zone offense," said Ford, whose team had been 0-6 in games decided by six points or less. "We're going to continue to see a lot of it because of Walt. Teams try to keep him in front and be able to have five guys guarding him."
The Salukis shot 56 percent from the field, but turned the ball over 14 times and were only 10-of-19 from the free throw line. They also went 0-for-5 from 3-point in the second half.
"The frustrating part for us is we can't handle success," Hinson said. "We can't turn one win into two wins. That just shows the immaturity of our ball club right now."