Men's Basketball locks down Nicholls State, 65-53

    Desmar Jackson led SIU with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

    Desmar Jackson led SIU with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
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    Dec. 21, 2012

    By Tom Weber

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    LOGAN, Utah - Southern Illinois turned up the defensive intensity a notch on Friday, holding Nicholls State to 36 percent shooting en route to a 65-53 victory at the World Vision Challenge.

    The Salukis (7-3) locked down the nation's third-leading scorer, Fred Hunter, limiting him to 14 points -- 10 below his average.

    Meanwhile, junior guard Desmar Jackson had a huge night for Southern with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Six of his boards came on the offensive end as SIU out-rebounded the Colonels (1-7) by a 42-29 margin.

    Saluki head coach Barry Hinson was especially pleased with Jackson's defense. The 6-foot-5 guard was one of the players who helped double team Hunter throughout the night making his life miserable.

    "I thought Dez's defense was the best he's played this year," Hinson said. "There's a direct correlation when you play hard on the defensive end, I think you play a lot harder on the offensive end."

    Southern's strategy was to make the powerful, 6-foot-5, 240-pound Hunter work for every basket.

    "One of the things we did was rotate guys doubling down on him and making sure we always had somebody doubling on him," Hinson explained. "We just thought it was really important that we get off to a good start of stopping him and frustrating him."

    Neither team shot the ball very well in the first half with Southern converting 36 percent compared to Nicholls' 26 percent. Saluki guard Jeff Early provided a spark, though, with eight points and eight rebounds in the first half, as Southern led 31-24 at halftime.

    "That's what Jeff does -- we all feed off of Jeff Early," said Hinson, regarding the energetic senior. "What he does on the floor makes us go."

    Early finished the contest with 10 points and 10 rebounds, marking the second time this year the duo of Jackson and Early have posted double-doubles in the same game.

    Southern led by as many as 19 points in the second half when Jackson threw down a two-hand slam and made a pair of free throws to put SIU up, 51-32, with 11:05 remaining. The Saluki offense was much better in the second half, converting 48 percent from the field.

    The only aspect of the game where Hinson offered a harsh critique was the team's 2-for-14 shooting from 3-point range.

    "We ran great offense and made the extra pass, we just didn't knock down threes," Hinson said. "We have to find a way to score from the perimeter. Our 3-point shooting is horrendous."

    The victory softened the sting of Thursday night's loss to UC Davis.

    "Last night, we shouldn't have lost that game," Jackson said. "Coach got on us about defense, yelling at me about defense, and I just wanted to come out and show the coach and the players that I'm down for the team."

    The Salukis will play host school Utah State tomorrow at 9 p.m. CT, and Hinson said tonight's game was a must-win if Southern has any hope of ending the Aggies' long-time dominance of their own tournament. Utah State is 44-1 heading into their game later this evening versus UC Davis.

    "We needed that, because If you'd lost this ballgame, you have no shot of winning tomorrow night," Hinson said. "Tomorrow night is an uphill challenge for us, we know that. I'm going to challenge our guys to play loose, I'll challenge them to play hard, and that's all I'm going to ask of them."