Jan. 25, 2014
By Tom Weber
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Jarmar Gulley scored 17 points, including a key put-back off a missed free throw with two minutes remaining to lead Missouri State to a 69-63 win over Southern Illinois on Saturday.
As they've done so often this season, the Salukis (6-15, 2-6) played well in spurts but could not string together 40 minutes of winning basketball. Desmar Jackson scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the second half, as Southern led by as many as five points. He surpassed Walt Frazier for third place in scoring by a two-year player at SIU and now has 888 career points.
The tide turned in Missouri State's favor midway through the second half when freshman sharpshooter Austin Ruder got hot from 3-point. He made back-to-back 3-balls in the span of a minute to turn a three-point MSU deficit into a 54-51 lead with 7:38 remaining. The Bears (14-6, 4-4) never trailed thereafter.
"We played all five starters 30-plus minutes and we ran out of gas," said SIU head coach Barry Hinson of his team's inability to closeout the game. "I burned every timeout I had to rest our guys. We had huge breakdowns defensively. It's not like we don't know (Ruder) can shoot."
The most encouraging sign for Southern was the play of freshman Tyler Smithpeters, who scored 16 points and added five assists in his first-career start. He was 4-for-7 from 3-point after entering the game only 5-of-17 on the season.
"We talked about living with eating some threes from Southern because they haven't shot it well," said MSU head coach Paul Lusk. "Obviously, Smithpeters was very good tonight. That changed the game. He gave them 16 that was unexpected."
Hinson has been desperately searching for a long-range threat this season, as Southern ranks among the worst 3-point shooting teams in the nation. At least for one night, Smithpeters showed he has that ability.
"As my dad would say, for the most part this year we couldn't hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle," Hinson joked. "(Tyler) certainly played well."
Southern stayed within striking distance in the final eight minutes of the game, but a key turning point was a Gulley put-back off a missed free throw by Dorrian Williams with 2:02 to go. Gulley slipped past Jalen Pendleton for a bucket that extended MSU's lead to 63-56. Although Anthony Beane countered with a 3-pointer for Southern, the Salukis could never get it to a one-possession game.
Another positive for SIU was the play of redshirt freshman Bola Olaniyan, who also made his first-career start. He had eight points and eight rebounds, including five offensive boards in the first half. Along with Sean O'Brien, the Salukis started three freshmen in the same game for the first time since Kevin Dillard, Ryan Hare and Justin Bocot started the final nine games of the 2009 season.
Missouri State moved into a tie for third place, an impressive achievement considering their best offensive and defensive player, Marcus Marshall, suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago.
"At the end of the day, we get the win," Lusk said. "It's not going to pretty for us at times, but we're finding a way to win games."
For Hinson, it was another emotional return to Springfield, where he coached Missouri State for nine seasons from 2000 to 2008.
"I had a lot of animosity after I left here after I got fired, I wasn't very mature and I didn't want to come back here," he said. "For whatever reason, I let that go. I came back the other night and I felt as home as I've ever felt, just like I still lived here for nine years. I want to apologize to the people of Springfield and southwest Missouri and Missouri State University for the animosity, because I do love this place."