March 8, 2014
By Tom Weber
ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Indiana State eliminated Southern Illinois in the semifinal round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Saturday, 62-59, at the Scottrade Center, behind a 20-point performance by point guard Jake Odum.
The crafty senior scored 17 of his points in the second half as the Sycamores (23-9) overcame a one-point halftime deficit. They advance to play No.1 seed Wichita State in tomorrow's championship game at 1 p.m.
The Salukis (14-19) led by as many as five points in the first half, but never led after Odum's opening basket in the second half. Desmar Jackson had a chance to tie it at the buzzer for SIU, but his 3-pointer banked off the backboard.
After a remarkable performance in last night's win over Northern Iowa, Jackson was held to a season-low eight points -- marking the first time this season and the first time in the last 35 games he did not score in double figures. He was 1-for-10 from the field as the ISU defenders collapsed around him every time he drove the ball to the hoop.
"They did everything that every other team has been doing -- when I drive they had the whole team in there clogging up the middle," Jackson explained.
The league's leader in steals did not record a single theft in the game and was whistled for four fouls.
"I had to keep going in and out of the game and I couldn't play defense the way I wanted to play defense," he said.
Anthony Beane led SIU with 16 points and hit a 3-pointer with 4:12 remaining that cut the deficit to 57-53. Jackson made his only field goal of the game with 3:13 left and added a pair of free throws with 44 seconds to go that cut it to 60-59.
Sycamores' forward Justin Gan missed a shot with 11 seconds, but teammate Khristian Smith tipped the rebound in for the final margin.
SIU shot 39 percent from the field, including 3-of-12 from 3-point.
"We never got into rhythm and kind of went back to the way we played earlier in the non-conference season," said SIU head coach Barry Hinson. "The ball didn't move, it stuck, and everybody tried to hit home runs and you can't play that way and be successful in this league."
Half of Odum's points came at the free throw line, where he was 10-of-15.
"We took some bad shots on offense that led to some fast breaks," acknowledged Jackson. "We shot the ball too quickly or forced a shot, and Odum being the good player that he is just pushed the ball."
Although the Salukis finished with a losing record for the sixth-straight year, they recovered from a 4-9 non-conference season to finish tied for fourth in the league standings. Next year they return Beane, the team's second-leading scorer, as well as three freshmen who gained starting experience, including Tyler Smithpeters, who had 13 points today.
"Our young guys are our future, and I know it's disappointing to our upperclassmen, but hopefully today is a learning experience we can use to teach a little bit," Hinson said.
SIU loses three senior scholarship players to graduation, including Jackson -- who led the team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals this season. He became only the ninth player in school history to surpass 600 points in a season, recording 613. Jackson is a surefire pro player.
"I still have to finish school so I can graduate, and from there I'm going to keep it in God's hands and see what he has in store for me," he said.
The Salukis finished the season by winning eight of their last 12 games and will use that as foundation for next year, according to Hinson.
"We wanted to establish the excitement back in Saluki Basketball, and we did that," he said.
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