Dec. 31, 2008
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - This was not the way Southern Illinois hoped to ring in the New Year.
The Salukis (5-8, 0-2) went without a field goal during an eight-minute stretch late in the game, allowing Northern Iowa to rally from a four-point deficit to win, 59-51, Wednesday night. Southern lost at home to a Missouri Valley Conference opponent for just the third time in the last eight seasons.
After a baseline jumper by Justin Bocot put the Salukis ahead, 45-41, with 9:18 remaining, SIU missed its next 10 shots and committed three turnovers. The Panthers (7-6, 1-1) gladly capitalized with a 17-2 run.
Saluki head coach Chris Lowery has seen his team hit a scoring dry spell all-too-often this season. Tonight's came at the worst possible time.
"We kept getting really good shots during this drought," he said. "It wasn't because our movement was bad or our ball reversal. We did a great job of moving the ball today and getting stuff out of those reversals. We just didn't finish them."
After making 6-of-10 shots from 3-point range, the Salukis missed their last six trys from behind the arc. Kevin Dillard, who led SIU with 16 points and five assists, missed three of them.
"Maybe Kevin got a little tired," Lowery said. "Maybe we played him too much. I just felt with him and Bryan (Mullins) in together, they did good things for each other, and they got other people open."
Lowery said he was searching for answers.
"At this point, maybe some of them are pressing too hard, but hey, we're at home," he said. "We've got to play free and loosey-goosey."
Southern dug itself a hole by allowing the Panthers to shoot 56 percent in the first half, including 4-of-7 from 3-point, as UNI led, 33-24, at halftime.
SIU could not stop Johnny Moran, who made 4-of-5 shots on the night and finished with a team-high 11 points.
"He was really tuned in," Jacobson said. "I thought he was the difference for us."
The Salukis were much better defensively in the second half, limiting the Panthers to 37 percent shooting, but that's when the offense bogged down.
"We just have to find ways to make plays in the clutch," Lowery said. "When it was winning time, we just made too many mistakes."
Lowery said his team must find a way to eliminate the lengthy lapses it has experienced all season.
"I don't think this is an issue of confidence," he said. "I think this is an issue of discipline. We have to learn to do things right all the time. You can't do it for a half. You can't do it when you feel good. You have to do it all the time.
"We're working extremely hard to get them better. That's all we can keep doing."