Feb. 18, 2012
By Tom Weber
MUNCIE, Ind. - Trailing by six points midway through the first half, Ball State went on a 24-2 run and then held off a late rally by Southern Illinois, to claim a 71-62 BracketBusters win on Saturday at Worthen Arena.
During the run, the Cardinals (13-12) made five 3-pointers, while reeling off 17-unanswered points. They exposed what has been a recurring weakness of late for the Salukis (8-20) -- perimeter defense. BSU made 10-of-20 of shots from outside the arc. In the last three games, SIU's opponents have combined to make 34-of-46 shots from 3-point.
The formula for beating Southern is now clear -- penetrate and pitch to the open man.
Ball State's guards worked the strategy to perfection as Randy Davis notched a career-high with 19 points, while Tyrae Robinson and Jesse Berry added 14 and 13, respectively.
"People are trying to penetrate and make us help off those wings," SIU head coach Chris Lowery said. "Throw it to the wings and take a wide-open shot."
Davis hit his third triple of the game with 15:47 remaining in the contest, giving BSU its biggest lead of the afternoon, 48-31.
That's when a listless Southern Illinois squad finally perked up, thanks mainly to Mamadou Seck. The senior forward scored 17 second-half points and finished with a career high 26 points to go with 11 rebounds.
"He was phenomenal -- the best game he's played in a Saluki uniform -- distributor, scorer, rebounder," Lowery said. "Everything we needed, he did."
Seck and front-court mate Dantiel Daniels, who scored 11 points, were the catalysts for the comeback, which saw Southern close to within 57-52 on a layup by Seck with 5:20 remaining.
The defense faltered on Ball State's next possession, though, as Jarrod Jones hit a clutch three with the shot clock winding down. The 6-foot-9 forward, who some feel is a pro prospect, was held to 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
Southern made one last run when T.J. Lindsay hit a triple with 43 seconds to go to make it 66-62. After Robinson split a pair of free throws to make it a five-point game, SIU's Kendal Brown-Surles missed an open look from the left corner. His 3-ball attempt with 40 seconds could have cut the deficit to two.
"I don't know how many times we've done this where we got in a big hole and came back," Lowery lamented. "Down the stretch we can't finish, especially on the road."
Southern had the better inside game thanks to Seck and Daniels, but Ball State's guards posted a whopping 52-23 advantage in scoring. Often times, SIU's forwards were drawn out of position trying to help on defense.
"It's guard play," Lowery said. "We can't keep putting our bigs in a bind to make them guard two or three people on a possession."
The Salukis dropped to 7-3 all-time in BracketBusters games. The Cardinals will make a return trip to Carbondale in the 2013-14 season.
SIU matched the school record for losses in a season, tying the 1981 and 1986 teams that also lost 20.
"You don't ever want to be a part of that," Lowery admitted. "I'm not going to let the players think about that, we're just going to keep playing hard."