Dec. 7, 2011
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Trailing by five points early in the second half Western Kentucky, reeled off a 12-2 run and coasted to 62-55 win over Southern Illinois.
Playing with a depleted roster, the Salukis (1-4) jumped to leads early in both halves, but lost momentum when they had to go to their thinned-out bench.
Southern led, 10-4, six minutes into the game, as senior forward Mamadou Seck scored the first four points of the contest. With 13:46 to go in the half, head coach Chris Lowery brought in three reserves, and the lead evaporated as the Hilltoppers (3-4) scored 10 unanswered points in a little more than two minutes.
The same thing happened at the start of the second half. Trailing by three, the Salukis scored the first eight points of the half to reclaim the lead. Minutes later, Western would exploit SIU's bench with its decisive 12-2 run. Derrick Gordon was the Hilltoppers' go-to guy, finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Nine players dressed and saw action for the Salukis, including freshmen Harry Whitt and Antonio Bryer, who both logged career-highs in minutes. During one stretch, Southern fielded a lineup of three freshmen and JUCO walk-on Kourtney Goff.
"When we subbed, we lost our focus, and we gave up open threes and two lay-ups," said Lowery. "(Offensively) we missed five lay-ups in one possession."
"Obviously, this is the type of game for Bocot to excel at -- an up and down, run and jump type of game, " Lowery noted.
Seck had a mammoth game for Southern with a career-high 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, but his supporting cast provided little help.
"We knew that with them being down a couple of guys that Seck was going to be aggressive and he didn't disappoint," said Western Kentucky head coach Ken McDonald. "He's a terrific player and we wanted to have a lot of focus on him and make him work for baskets. We couldn't keep him down because he's so good."
The Salukis stayed within striking distance throughout the second half, keeping the deficit at single digits, but they could not generate a significant run.
No Division I team has played fewer games to date than Southern Illinois, and the Saluki offense was less than a finely tuned machine. There were numerous missed open looks near the basket as the team made just 35 percent of its shots from the floor, including 18 percent from 3-point. Complicating matters, Southern committed 19 turnovers, its highest total in the last four games.
"We played hard, but we had a lot of miscues," Lowery said. "We did a lot of things that hurt ourselves."