Dec. 23, 2013
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois overpowered sister school SIUE on Monday night, 74-57, in front of 7,057 fans at SIU Arena -- the largest crowd since the facility was renovated prior to the 2010-11 season.
Led by senior guard Desmar Jackson, the bigger, stronger Salukis (4-8) dominated nearly every aspect of the game against the Cougars (2-10). They held a 52-16 advantage in points in the paint, a 36-27 edge in rebounds and out-shot the visitors 60 to 31 percent from the field.
Jackson recently surpassed 1,500 career points, but tonight he turned in a spectacular all-around performance with 13 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, no turnovers and two steals. When he wasn't scoring, he was breaking down the defense and finding open teammates for easy layups.
"I think it's the best he's played since I've been here," said SIU head coach Barry Hinson. "I think he literally dominated the game."
Southern blew the game open in the first half with a 15-0 run to build a 23-7 lead. Sophomore forward Jalen Pendleton came off the bench to score eight of his 20 points during that decisive run. He has 44 points in the last two games and none of his buckets have come from more than a few feet from the basket.
"It just blows my mind," Hinson said. "He's not much taller than me. The guy is 6-foot-2 and he's scoring all around the basket."
Pendleton had 14 at halftime and, according to SIUE head coach Lennox Forrester, brought back memories of another undersized Saluki power forward.
"He reminds me of Jeff Early and how he played his position -- a guy that really doesn't shoot well from the perimeter but golly he is really tough," Forrester said. "He is an undersized 4, but he gets the job done."
The Salukis played by far their best half of the season in the first 20 minutes en route to a 39-20 halftime lead. Hinson was especially proud of his defense, which held SIUE to 26 percent shooting in the half. Southern has played a lot of zone defense this year, but not tonight against the overmatched Cougars.
"We guarded our tails off," Hinson said. "I had no intention of playing any zone. We've been working on our man and we've not been very productive with it, but we really worked on it hard the last two weeks."
SIU led by as many as 30 points in a game that featured a highlight reel lob dunk to Jackson, and a scintillating behind-the-back pass from Jackson to Anthony Beane for a layup, that brought the crowd to its feet.
Hinson went deep into his bench for the final five minutes of the game, but had to reinsert Jackson as the Cougars staged a late comeback to close to within 11 points, 68-57, with 1:13 remaining.
"I subbed way too early and I shouldn't have, but I did it for the right reason," Hinson said. "I wanted those guys on the floor. They practice every day, they deserve to play."
The Salukis closed out the win by scoring the game's final six points as Southern Illinois improved to 6-0 all-time against SIUE.
"The best Band-Aid for a program is to win, especially when you're struggling," said Hinson, whose team won back-to-back games for the first time this season. "We needed that. We get to go home now over Christmas break and everybody gets to have a little bit better Christmas."