Jeff Early led SIU with 16 points and nine rebounds
Jan. 20, 2013
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Illinois State beat Southern Illinois, 70-56, on Sunday night, taking out a season's worth of frustration during a ferocious first-half assault.
Previously winless in conference play this year, the Redbirds (10-9, 1-6) dismantled the Salukis (8-10, 1-6) in the first 20 minutes, leading 47-21 at the half. The 26-point halftime deficit was the largest in the history of SIU Arena for Southern Illinois.
"(Winning) sure beats the alternative, which we've experienced way too much recently," said rookie ISU head coach Dan Muller, who earned the first Missouri Valley Conference win of his career. "When you win for the first time in a month, you feel good no matter what."
Two players -- Tyler Brown and Jackie Carmichael -- did most of the damage for the Redbirds. Brown began the game with a four-point play and had 18 of his 22 points during the first half. The 6-foot-4 guard made 6-of-14 3-point shots -- many of them from NBA range. At 6-foot-9, Carmichael towered over SIU's front line, scoring 18 points and gathering 14 rebounds.
"Dan was smart, he kept pounding it (inside)," said SIU head coach Barry Hinson. "We kept sinking in (defensively), and when we'd sink, Tyler would hit the shot. Choose your poison."
Illinois State was picked to finish second in the preseason MVC poll and started the season 9-3 before dropping six-straight Valley tilts.
"I've been saying this for the last three weeks -- these guys are at any moment going to come out of their slump and cause people some issues," Hinson said.
The lopsidedness of the first half was partially self-inflicted for Southern. Two key players -- Desmar Jackson and Dantiel Daniels -- were saddled with foul trouble. The offense mostly sputtered without them, as SIU committed 10 turnovers to go with just one assist in the half.
Hinson began his press conference by calling his team's play "selfish" in the first half, but then clarified by describing it as "indecisive."
"There was a lack of confidence to pass or to move or to cut," he explained. "You hold onto it because you're indecisive."
To Southern's credit, there was no indecisiveness in the second half. They put the Redbirds on their heels during a 23-6 run, in which they attacked the basket on offense and confused ISU with a zone press on defense. Jeff Early, who leads the nation in rebounding among players 6-foot-1 or smaller, led the comeback and finished with 16 points and nine boards.
"Jeff Early is about as competitive as you get in this league," Muller said. "At his size, the production he's getting is awfully impressive. The truth is, they're not very big. Barry's working with a short hand a little bit with size."
Hinson was encouraged by the crowd of 5,254, most of who stayed for the second half and helped energize SIU's comeback. The team received a standing ovation after Anthony Beane's layup cut the deficit to 55-44 with 10:43 remaining. That was as close as Southern would come, however, as Kaza Keane hit a 3-point basket for ISU.
"Most crowds, when you're down 26 at half, they don't come back -- they leave," Hinson said. "What I saw tonight absolutely blew my mind."
Though happy with the win, Muller was disappointed to see his team's defense falter in the second half, allowing the Salukis to shoot 50 percent, after yielding just 33 percent in the first half.
"(SIU) became the aggressors, so that led to some sloppy play," he said. "They were getting to the rim like crazy in the second half."
The path forward won't get easier for the Salukis, who play at Northern Iowa on Wednesday and return home to play No. 12 Creighton on Sunday.
"I just came out of a locker room with a lot of guys looking at me who are very, very fragile," Hinson said. "This is when you have to coach. This is when you have to find ways to motivate your players and to keep their heads up -- a little bit of Rudyard Kipling."