Jan. 23, 2008
By Tom Weber
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Southern Illinois did just about everything right Wednesday night against Missouri State except rebound the basketball. That little detail was ultimately their undoing.
Missouri State grabbed 18 offensive rebounds on the evening, including a critical board by Dale Lamberth with less than two seconds remaining. He was fouled by SIU's Tyrone Green and made both free throws with 1.7 seconds left to give the Bears a 63-62 win.
The Salukis (9-10, 4-4) held a one-point lead, 62-61, after a pull-up jumper by Bryan Mullins with 26 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, the Bears (11-9, 4-4) struggled to run their offense, and Justin Fuehrmeyer had to put up a desperation 3-pointer with four seconds remaining. He missed badly, and Lamberth ducked under the basket to swipe the rebound amid a pack of Saluki defenders. Whistle. Free throws. Game over.
Lamberth finished with 24 points and six offensive rebounds as MSU out-rebounded Southern by 15.
"It's certainly not the play we designed with the air-ball shot, rebound and foul, but I think these kids deserve a break like that," said Missouri State head coach Barry Hinson.
Saluki coach Chris Lowery has to wonder what his team needs to do to change its late-game fortune. The loss marked the third time this season SIU has had a lead, only for an opponent to score the winning basket with seconds left on the clock. The other two buzzer-beating losses were to Butler and Indiana State.
Southern shot 54 percent on the night, compared to 37 percent by Missouri State. The Salukis also made 87 percent of their free throws. Still, the rebounding deficit meant the game came down to the final possession, and SIU could not hold its lead.
"We made them take a tough shot," Lowery said. "They probably wanted to go to Dale (Lamberth), but he ended up getting it anyway. Those type of things are beating us this year."
"You put the ref in a bind, and you force him to either make a call or swallow his whistle," Lowery said. "We don't ever want to be on that side of it, where we force somebody to make a call."
Instead, Lowery blamed his team for not securing the rebound.
"We felt we could guard them and make them take a tough shot, but we had to get the rebound," he said. "That's the last thing we talked about out of the timeout, was clearing the rebound. If we make them take a tough one, we have to chase, and we didn't. We watched the ball, we reacted late, and that's what happens."
Lowery said there's a fine line between winning and losing for this year's Saluki team, and too often they've been on the wrong side.
"The little things that we pride ourselves on, we're not doing them," he said. "The hustle plays, the 50-50 plays, (the Bears) won every single one of them in the second half, and that's what decides games."
The Bears slowly chipped away at the lead, and SIU held just a 30-29 advantage at halftime.
"I was really never in a panic in the first half, because I thought we were guarding ok," HInson said. "They were just making shots, and we were struggling moreso offensively."
The Salukis will return home to play arch-rival Creighton on Saturday, while Missouri State hopes tonight's win is a springboard for the second half of the season.
"We needed to win a game where we had to execute down the stretch," Hinson said. "I think this could be a season-turning type of game."