Jalen Pendleton scored 14 points off the bench for SIU.
Nov. 16, 2013
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - A veteran Saint Louis team fended off upset-minded Southern Illinois, 76-67, in a roller-coaster ride at SIU Arena on Saturday night.
The Salukis (0-2) stunned the Billikens (3-0) in the first half, building a 32-19 lead, but SLU closed out the last five minutes before halftime with an 18-4 run to go up, 37-36. In the second half, Saint Louis led by as many as 10 points, but Southern cut it to one, 62-61, with five minutes remaining. Once again, the Billikens closed the half with a big run, sealing the victory by outscoring SIU, 14-6.
"Nothing was easy tonight and (SIU) made it difficult for us," said Saint Louis coach Jim Crews, whose team played in the NCAA Tournament last year and is picked to finish second in the Atlantic 10 Conference this season. "I was impressed with how we kept hanging in there. We didn't push the panic button. We had our pulse rates changed at certain times and in certain situations -- which was good."
SIU's fast start was keyed by sophomore point guard Marcus Fillyaw. He blew by his defender on multiple occasions, streaking to the basket for layups. Fillyaw made 8-of-9 shots from the field and finished with 17 points, prompting head coach Barry Hinson to remove the "vanilla" tag he used a few weeks ago to describe his player's offensive ability.
"I may have to take back my "vanilla" comment," Hinson joked. "That's the best point guard play we've had in this building in my two years. I think he's just getting better and better."
As the Salukis did earlier in the week against a taller and more athletic Missouri team, they settled into a 2-3 zone for much of the game, partially nullifying SLU's height advantage and forcing them into a 7-for-22 night from 3-point range. On the flip side, SIU had trouble rebounding the ball, losing the battle of the boards, 40-33.
"When you play a zone, they're going to shoot a lot of threes -- they've been shooting 26 percent from the three on the year," Hinson noted. "Some of the long rebounds we didn't chase down."
Saint Louis was close to putting the game out of reach midway through the second half, building a 54-44 advantage. That's when Hinson turned to his spark plug -- 6-foot-2 power forward Jalen Pendleton.
"When we hit the wall I looked at my staff and said we need a spark, and both assistants said put Jalen in," Hinson said. "When I put him in I just said play within yourself, but we need a spark."
Guarded by the bigger and slower forward Dwayne Evans, Pendleton attacked the basket, scoring seven of his 14 points during a two-minute span that cut the deficit to four and energized a noisy crowd of 5,640.
Desmar Jackson, who led Southern with 18 points, scored on a driving layup to bring his team to within one, 62-61, with 5:08 remaining.
Mike McCall Jr. responded just moments later with a pull-up jumper that started SLU's game-winning run. McCall Jr. was a thorn in SIU's side with 19 points and nine rebounds.
Both teams left their starters on the floor for long stretches. The only starter for SIU who didn't log at least 32 minutes was Davante Drinkard. Likewise for SLU, only Grady Glaze played fewer than 30 minutes for the visitors, as both head coaches determined to keep their most consistent and experienced players on the floor.
"The more mature we are the better we'll be," said Hinson, who starts two sophomores and three seniors. "I wish I could speed it up. It's not like a microwave to speed up maturation, you only do it by playing and gaining experience."
Hinson hopes playing both Missouri and Saint Louis tough to start the season will help his team when it reaches the softer part of its schedule.
"If we go get beat at Austin Peay (next Tuesday) it doesn't help us," he said. "We're 0-2 and that's a hole, and you just can't add to it."