Feb. 8, 2014
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Two weeks ago Southern Illinois had the worst record in the Missouri Valley Conference. Suddenly, it is one of the hottest clubs in the league, winning its fourth-straight game and making it look easy in a 72-54 romp over Missouri State on Saturday.
Anthony Beane continued his torrid play for the Salukis (10-15, 6-6), scorching the nets for 26 points, giving him 95 during the recent winning streak. SIU is a completely different team with the emergence of Beane, who has taken some of the scoring load off the shoulders of Desmar Jackson, who finished the game with 11 points. On a night when Southern honored its All-Century team, Beane became the first Saluki player to score 20 or more points in four-straight games since All-Century teamer Kent Williams did it in 2001.
The Bears (16-8, 6-6) led 27-26 late in the first half, but Beane hit a 3-pointer on the last possession to put SIU on top at halftime, 29-27. It was a taste of things to come as Beane came out smoking to start the second half. He had 13 points in a 23-7 Saluki run to start the half, including three treys.
"Number 25 is playing pretty good right now," deadpanned SIU head coach Barry Hinson. "He just absolutely took the game over for about a four-minute stretch and was phenomenal."
His final bucket during the run put Southern ahead, 52-34, with 11:51 remaining and pretty much sealed the outcome. SIU led by as many as 23.
Missouri State went into a deep funk on the offensive end in the second half, converting just one field goal in the first 13 minutes. On the night they shot 38 percent from the field and made just 2-of-14 shots from 3-point. Conversely, Southern Illinois continued its hot shooting with a season-best 9-of-17 from downtown.
"We just literally crumbled to start the second half," said MSU head coach Paul Lusk, whose team lost top scorer Marcus Marshall for the season with a knee injury. "We missed a couple layups right at the rim, turned it over and they capitalized every time."
Lusk praised his best defensive player -- Dorrian Williams -- for limiting Jackson to 11 points, but said he had no one left to guard Beane.
"When you have to guard multiple guys, you get exposed," he said. "I can't put Dorrian Williams on everybody. We just couldn't guard (Beane). He's been on a tear and he's a terrific player."
Southern has made a living off its 2-3 zone defense this season, but tonight Hinson threw the Bears a curveball by playing a switching man-to-man defense. It was a successful tactic late in the season last year as well. The 54 points were the fewest the Salukis have allowed since giving up 48 to Stetson on Nov. 26.
"We made a couple of adjustments at halftime that I thought were critical and they were huge for us, defensively, and they worked out to our favor," Hinson said.
The four-game winning streak is the longest since 2010 and the longest in conference play since 2008. SIU has battled back to .500 in the conference and is in the thick of a race to secure a prime seed at the annual MVC tournament. The top six seeds in the 10-team league skip Thursday's opening round, and that appears to be an achievable goal the way SIU is playing.
Three weeks remain in the regular season, and the Salukis will play four of their last six games on the road, including contests at No. 4 Wichita State next Tuesday and at second-place Indiana State on Saturday.