Tuesday, February 13, 2007

SIU Retains First Place With 51-47 Win!

So a friend of mine that reads this blog casually suggested that I write more about Saluki basketball. He's interested in the #15 squad in the country, especially after seeing their game against Creighton on Saturday. So, I'll try to cater to my readers (all three or now maybe four of you) by writing a post about tonight's SIU game against Missouri State. Heck, maybe it'll help with my future career as a sports writer, who knows?

If my buddy liked what he saw on Saturday, he wouldn't have liked today's game much. SIU did beat MVC foe Missouri State on the road tonight by a 51-47 score, but it wasn't pretty.

This might have been considered a trap game for the Dawgs, coming off of the big win against arch-rival Creighton but before ESPN's Bracket Buster game at #12 Butler University on Saturday. In any case, the game still had to be played.

Missouri State brings a whole heck of a lot of problems match-up wise. They have a bunch of guys who can play a bunch of different positions, like big guards that can play inside or small big men that can play on the perimeter. Still, somehow SIU found a way to win.

Every time SIU plays Mo. St., I call the game "The Me and My Shadow" game. Both teams play similar styles, with equal talent. Heck, they even share the same school colors, maroon and white.

On to the game summary. This game epitomized "Winning Ugly," a phrase made famous by the 1983 Chicago White Sox. In my three years as an SIU student, they've perfected this concept. They've got it down to a tee.

Statistically, the game could have been won or lost in several categories. Mo. State shot 50% (9-for-18) from the field in the second half while limiting SIU to 28% shooting (7-for-25) from the field. However SIU shot 81.3% from the free throw line in the game (13-for-16) while Mo. St. struggled when they got to the line shooting at a sub-par 60% clip (15-for-25.) That's where the game was won. If Mo. St. hits their free throws at a 70% clip, which they usually do, they win the game, it's as simple as that.

The SIU defense was stingy again, holding Missouri State to 47 points, 28 points below their average. That's what SIU does, they stop you from scoring. This team isn't an offensive juggernaut by a long shot, and that 85% 2nd half shooting night might be an aberration, but the defense isn't.

Besides the team defense, shutting down Mo. St. star guard Blake Ahern, limiting him to just 7 points on just 2-of-8 shooting was definitely key to slowing down the Bears offensive attack. In this game, Ahern air-balled an early three point attempt and missed a wide-open three-point opportunity in the corner in the closing minutes that would have given the Bears the lead.

SIU was lead by senior guard Jamaal Tatum, though he wasn't the team's high scorer. Junior forward/center Randal Falker led the team with 20 points to go along with 12 rebounds giving him another double-double. However, it was Tatum's late game heroics that brought the win home to Carbondale. A NBA-range three pointer and two clutch free throws down the stretch pulled SIU to a lead in the closing minutes of the game. Reserve guard Wesley Clemmons iced the game with two free-throws, making the game 51-47.

Tyler Chaney led the Bears with 13 points, while Dale Lamberth provided 11 points and a spark off the bench.

The win moves SIU to 22-5 overall and 13-3 in MVC play, and keeps the Dawgs in sole possession of first place, a full game ahead of Creighton University who beat a slumping Northern Iowa team by 11-points.

SIU's next game is the highly anticipated Bracket Buster game against #12 Butler University, who won their game tonight by a 79-62 score. It will undoubtedly be the first Bracket Buster game that features two top-15 schools. That game can be seen on ESPN2, tip-off around 3:00 p.m.

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