Anthony Beane came off the bench to score 10 points for SIU.
Feb. 19, 2013
OMAHA, Neb. - Creighton picked up a critical win over Southern Illinois on Tuesday night, 59-45, keeping pace a game behind first-place Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference standings, as the league race heads into the homestretch.
The Bluejays (22-6, 11-5) led the entire game, but mostly by single digits, and didn't build a comfortable double-digit advantage until the final five minutes. They shot 51 percent from the field and survived an off night by All-American Doug McDermott, who scored 10 points -- 13 below his average. Backup center Will Artino came off the bench to tie his career high with 13 points.
After dismantling SIU by 30 points in Carbondale last month, Creighton found it much more difficult the second time around. Head coach Greg McDermott, whose team is 5-5 in its last 10 games and has dropped out of the national rankings, said his team is laboring.
"We've got to find a way to capture the enthusiasm and enjoyment with which these guys have played with each other in the past," he said. "Part of that is certainly the pressure of being on this team with the expectations that have been put on these guys throughout the season. That will wear on you."
The Salukis (11-16, 4-12) tried to play the role of pesky spoiler, but just didn't have enough offensive firepower to pull off the upset. They shot 35 percent from the field and likewise had a subpar game from their best player, as Desmar Jackson was limited to a conference season-low five points on 1-of-9 shooting.
SIU head coach Barry Hinson wasn't the least bit disappointed in his club's performance against a team with greater size, depth and skill.
"There's going to be a lot of fans walk out of here tonight and they don't know the difference, but those who do, they saw all my peckerwoods and my goobers out there play their tails off," he said. "I've got three guys crying in (the locker room) and I think that speaks volumes. We weren't favored tonight, but our guys didn't know that."
Creighton jumped out to a 12-2 lead and seemed poised for another blowout, but they turned the ball over seven times in the first half, didn't get a single offensive rebound and led just 28-22 at the half.
"Our defense, for the most part, was where it needed to be," McDermott said. "We made Southern Illinois take the shots we wanted them to take. We were obviously a little out of sync offensively for a good portion of the game. We've got to find a way to get that swagger back."
Jackson scored the first five points of the second half for SIU, but he soon picked up his third and fourth fouls, and later he turned an ankle on a rebound, relegating him to the bench.
The 6-foot-11 Artino scored nine points in the second half, many of them coming on the pick and roll, against an undersized Southern Illinois front line. The Salukis came as close as four points, 35-31, on a jumper by Kendal Brown-Surles with 13:56 remaining, but Creighton answered with a 6-0 run that featured two buckets by Artino.
"I've been telling my wife for years size doesn't matter, that's how she married me, but tonight it did," Hinson laughed. "It bothered us tonight, and we understand our deficiencies."
Southern has won three of its last five games, and the winning formula has been to reduce the number of possessions in the game and play sticky defense. It stuck to that plan most of the night, working the shot clock under 10 on numerous possessions.
"That's exactly what we wanted," Hinson said. "Make it the most boring game you've ever seen. Make it the worst B-movie you've ever watched. I said make it where it's the worst food, they get up, they don't want to tip the waiter. Make it awful."
Jeff Early led the Salukis with 12 points, while Anthony Beane added 10 points off the bench. For the 10th-straight game, Southern could not eclipse the 65-point plateau -- the longest such streak dating back to the 1946-47 season.
"I really like my basketball team right now -- they're giving me every single thing they've got," Hinson said. "We don't have a lot of talent, we understand our deficiencies."
Even after a 14-point win, it felt like something was wrong with a Creighton team that started the season 18-1.
"If they have a fault, it's that they're too good of guys and probably don't demand as much of each other as they should of each other at times," McDermott said. "Those attributes are going to get them a long ways in life, they're going to be really successful...but it takes a little bit more to be a teammate sometimes."
SIU lost its 15th-straight conference road game, tying a school record set between 1982 and 1984. Southern's last MVC win on the road was at Bradley on Jan. 4, 2012. SIU also had its two-game winning streak snapped.
Still, Hinson said his team believes in miracles, especially 24-year-old senior leader Early, and is looking forward to Arch Madness -- the league's conference tournament.
"Jeff has this Puerto Rican accent and every time he talks, my wife thinks he's Fabio, like some Latin lover," Hinson said. "He's talking about March Madness and says, 'anything can happen coach, anything can happen.' He's right. If we're fortunate enough to win the first game (in St. Louis), there's a great chance we play these guys again.
As he's done at virtually every Valley stop along the way, Hinson paid tribute to the home team.
"Your athletic director had a major play in me having a chance to come back to the Valley," he explained. "I want to thank Ras (Bruce Rassmussen). I want to thank the people of Creighton and your athletic director for giving me the opportunity to come back to the Valley. I love this conference and I love (Creighton's) program."