Jan. 29, 2011
By Tom Weber
EVANSVILLE, Ind. - For the fifth time this season, Southern Illinois could not protect a halftime lead, falling to Evansville, 66-49, on Saturday.
The Salukis (10-12, 4-7) were whistled for a season-high 31 fouls, as head coach Chris Lowery was forced to dig deep into his roster because of foul trouble.
With the win, the Purple Aces (12-9, 6-5) solidified their hold on sixth place in the Missouri Valley Conference, moving two games ahead of SIU in the league standings. Colt Ryan led the second-half comeback, scoring 19 of his game-high 23 points.
The two team were assessed a mind-numbing 34 fouls in the second half. In between whistles, some basketball was played, and Evansville dominated the second-half action.
Evansville's comeback from a 21-18 halftime deficit began with a pair of deep 3-pointers by Ryan that ignited an Aces' offense that outscored the Salukis, 48-28, in the final 20 minutes.
"You don't let a guy like that get going," said Saluki head coach Chris Lowery. "He had wide-open looks, and it just snow-balled from there."
It was a two-point game at the 11-minute mark when things began to unravel for SIU. Leading 39-37, the Aces went on a 14-4 run to blow the game open.
"There wasn't anything that we ran special," said Evansville head coach Marty Simmons. "I just thought we had a better rhythm and patience with our offense."
"We got hit in the mouth, we kept getting hit in the mouth, and we took it," said Lowery, whose team was called for 19 second-half fouls.
The game tipped off five minutes late because one of the shot clocks fell off the backboard during warmups.
It was a sign of things to come, as both teams left their offense in the locker room in the first half. The Salukis were 5-of-23 from the field in the half, while the Purple Aces were 6-of-23.
Evansville had two, long dry spells, going six minutes without a field goal to begin the game and going scoreless during an eight-minute stretch in which SIU went on an 11-0 run.
A six-point Saluki lead was trimmed to three late in the first half after guard Jack Crowder was called for a flagrant foul for an elbow that caught Kenny Harris in the face.
"We couldn't maintain our focus at the end of the half and it carried right over in to the second half," Lowery said. "That's just unacceptable."
While the Salukis stayed cold all night, shooting just 26 percent from the field for the game, Evansville heated up in the second half, making 46 percent of its shots.
"There's a level of discipline you have to establish mentally, and we haven't established that at this point in the season," Lowery said.
SIU again had trouble protecting the basketball committing 17 turnovers to go with seven assists.
"When you can't attack with your guard play, they are just packing it in and doubling and tripling Gene," said Lowery, who played eight different guards in search of the right combination. "Somebody has to step up and be every-game good for us."
"The guard who is good one game is not good the second game," said Lowery. "The guy who is good one half is not good in the second half. That's extremely frustrating for us as a staff to try to find a group of guards."
The Aces came into the game having lost seven of the last eight meetings with SIU.
"It's a good win, because we have such respect for Chris and the way they go about it," said Simmons. "They've certainly had our number."