San Diego holds off Men's Basketball, 59-56

    Desmar Jackson scored 23 points and added two assists and two steals.

    Desmar Jackson scored 23 points and added two assists and two steals.
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    Nov. 27, 2013

    By Tom Weber

    Final Stats |  Photo Gallery 

    ESTERO, Fla. - San Diego held off Southern Illinois, 59-56, in the fifth-place game at the Gulf Coast Showcase on Wednesday, as SIU guard Desmar Jackson's desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer hit the back of the rim.

    The Toreros (7-1) shot just 29 percent from the field, but rode a massive advantage in rebounds (40-29) and free throws (26-11) to victory.

    The Salukis (2-5) led throughout much of the contest and were up, 34-27, when things started to unravel with 13 minutes remaining. First, Jalen Pendleton was whistled for a blocking foul, then moments later, SIU head coach Barry Hinson was assessed with a technical foul for the third time in three days. Four-straight made free throws by the Toreros were the beginning of an 11-2 San Diego run.

    Hinson was having a heated discussion with one official about whether the shot clock had been properly reset, when another referee across the court slapped him with a technical.

    "The official from far away gives me a T because I'm so animated," he explained. "I have no problems fighting for our guys. It was absolutely a bad time to get it. I'm sorry we got it, but I'm not going to let anybody do that to our guys."

    There were four lead changes and four ties during the next 10 minutes of play. Playing their third game in three days, both teams labored to make jump shots. The Toreros were 5-of-20 from 3-point, while the Salukis were 1-of-10.

    Jackson took over the scoring load for Southern down the stretch, scoring 13 of his game-high 23 points in the second half. He made all seven of his free throw tries.

    "He is so good off the dribble and getting in the lane, and his pull-up, because of his length, he just rises up over you and it seems like it's automatic," said San Diego head coach Bill Grier, who admitted his team switched to a zone defense because they could not stop Jackson's penetration. "I kept telling my staff throughout the game, we don't have a guy on our team who can guard him."

    Jackson made a pair of free throws to tie the game, 50-50, with 3:21 remaining, but Johnny Dee answered with a 3-pointer for the Toreros. Dee was only 2-of-13 from the field, but he made 11-of-12 free throws and had a team-high 17 points.

    "He can miss nine-straight shots, but in his mind, number 10 is going in," Grier said. "That's just the belief he has in his ability to shoot the ball."

    In the frantic final 30 seconds of play, San Diego led, 55-52, but Jito Kok missed an easy two-handed dunk, and Jackson raced down the court for a driving layup to make it 55-54 with 23 seconds to go. Dennis Kramer hit a pair of free throws for San Diego to make it 57-54 with 21 seconds left, and Sean O'Brien responded with a driving layup to cut it to 57-56 with three seconds. After two more made free throws by Dee, O'Brien tossed a perfect pass the length of the court to Jackson, who unleashed a turnaround jumper from the left corner that would not go down.

    "We put ourselves in position to win the ballgame, and that's all I can ask of our guys," said Hinson. "We absolutely have worn out Dez and Anthony (Beane). We need a guard to come off the bench and help us right now."

    SIU centers Davante Drinkard and Bola Olaniyan both fouled out, but O'Brien, a freshman forward, had his best game of the season with 11 points and six rebounds. He entered the tournament averaging 3.0 points, but has scored 28 points in three days in Florida.

    "Every game I get more and more confident," he said. "The first few games, everything was really fast. Now, the game is starting to slow down for me."

    Defensively, Southern held its second-straight opponent below 30 percent shooting.

    "We haven't really seen a lot of zone and we didn't attack it very well," said Grier. "That's a credit to them and the way they guard."

    The Salukis will fly to Chicago on Thanksgiving as they prepare to play Chicago State on Saturday.

    "I know we lost two games (in Florida), but two good teams beat us," said Hinson.