Drake holds off Southern Illinois, 57-54

    Sean O'Brien had a double-double for SIU with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

    Sean O'Brien had a double-double for SIU with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
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    Jan. 22, 2014

    By Tom Weber

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    CARBONDALE, Ill. - Drake continued its mastery over Southern Illinois with a 57-54 win on Wednesday night for its sixth-straight victory at SIU Arena and ninth win in the last 10 meetings between the schools.

    The Bulldogs (11-8, 2-5) entered the game having lost five in a row on the season, but led virtually the entire game and by as many as 13 points.

    "We needed a win about as bad as you could need a win right now," said first-year Drake coach Ray Giacoletti. "We've had a lot of adversity this year."

    Drake won despite making only one field goal and committing five turnovers in the final eight minutes of the game. The Salukis (6-14, 2-5) just couldn't capitalize because of a dreadful shooting performance from the free throw line where they were 12-of-28.

    How bad was it from the charity stripe? With 5:33 remaining in the game, Sean O'Brien's free throw toss landed six inches short of the rim. It was that kind of night for SIU. Drake, meanwhile, made 19-of-23 free throws in the game, and that statistic alone was the difference.

    Southern stayed within striking distance in the second half, though, thanks to a 2-3 zone that Giacoletti said "stymied us." Desmar Jackson had five steals in the second half and became the first Saluki to record six thefts in a game since Bryan Mullins accomplished the feat against Mississippi State on Nov. 23, 2007.

    With 3:08 remaining in the game and his team trailing, 52-48, SIU head coach Barry Hinson paraded up and down the sideline waving his arms to fire up the crowd of 4,532. It worked, as Jackson reeled off four-straight points to tie the game, 52-52, with 59 seconds remaining.

    "I'm going the be the cheerleader, I'm going to get everybody going, because we have nobody else on our team that will get out on the floor and get people into it," Hinson said.

    Jackson had a team-high 15 points, but was only 4-of-15 from the field.

    Drake answered on its next possession when Richard Carter penetrated the lane and kicked to Aaron Hawley for a wide-open 3-pointer in the left corner. The senior forward knocked down his fifth trey of the night with 40 seconds left and finished with a game-high 19 points.

    "He's a kid who when we got there was playing rec ball," said Giacoletti, who explained how Hawley received an extra year of eligibility. "He has really tried to do all the little things. The rap in the past was he was just one-dimensional -- all he wanted to do was shoot the basketball."

    Trailing, 57-54, SIU had one last gasp at sending the game to overtime, but Dawson Verhines' 3-pointer at the buzzer caught iron.

    The Salukis were 4-for-18 from 3-point range as they continue to struggle from the perimeter. The starters were a combined 1-for-13, prompting Hinson to say, "when we look in the mirror we must see another team."

    Freshman Tyler Smithpeters came off the bench to make 2-of-3 shots from downtown and finished with a career-high 12 points, while O'Brien had his first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

    Another freshman, Bola Olaniyan, scored only one point but grabbed seven rebounds and earned praise from Hinson.

    "You just met your starting center, ladies and gentlemen, because that guy got seven rebounds," Hinson said. "He can make fun of my wife's potato salad and he's still going to start at Missouri State on Saturday. "

    SIU is off to its worst start after 20 games in school history, tying the 6-14 mark produced by the 1980, 1983, 1986 and 2012 teams.