CARBONDALE (SIU ATHLETICS) —
CARBONDALE, Ill. – The SIU men’s basketball team grinded out a 63-57 win over Evansville on Sunday at Banterra Center. With the win, SIU improved to 7-0, the best start for the program since 1947-48.
“I’m proud of our guys,” SIU head coach Bryan Mullins said. “Evansville is a tough team. They’re well-coached and physical. They do a great job of guarding the dribble, and they put you in a lot of disadvantage situations on defense. I’m really proud to be able to grind that out. We didn’t shoot the ball as well as we would like to, but we have a lot of things we need to do better in order to have success tomorrow.”
The Salukis (7-0, 1-0 MVC) were dominant defensively in the first half, holding Evansville (2-5, 0-1 MVC) to 19 points on 37% shooting. The Salukis held Evansville scoreless for nearly five minutes at one point and allowed just six points in the final 9 minutes of the half.
SIU jumped out to a 21-10 lead in the game’s first 10 minutes; but while the Salukis were holding Evansville to only two field goals the rest of the half from that point, SIU’s offense couldn’t take advantage. While SIU’s defense allowed the fewest points in a half this season (19), SIU’s offense also had its lowest output in a half this season (28).
Lance Jones came alive in the second half, scoring all 19 of his points in the second period. He started the second half with an and-1 to give SIU a 12-point lead, SIU’s largest lead of the day. Evansville outscored SIU in the second half, 38-35, but never took a lead. The Salukis never trailed in the game and earned their third wire-to-wire victory of the season.
“(Jones) did a good job changing speeds,” Mullins said. “We challenged him at halftime, and he did a good job coming out in the second half with more energy. He was able to hit some gaps. He did a good job in the second half of playing downhill, and being more in control as well.”
Twenty-nine of Evansville’s 49 shots were 3-pointers, and the Aces hit 10 of those, but Southern’s defense was stingy when it counted, holding Evansville to 2-for-11 from the 3-point line in the game’s final 10 minutes. The Salukis were also solid off the 3-point line, winning the rebounding battle and limiting Evansville to just 16 points in the paint.
“We’re going to win with defense, like every team will in the Valley,” Mullins said. “You’re not going to outscore teams 100-90 in this league. We need to continue to get better on that end.”
On the other side, SIU came into the game ranked in the top-10 nationally in 3-point field goal percentage at better than 44%, but the Salukis were an uncharacteristic 2-for-13 from the 3-point line today.
“For the most part, we had good looks,” Mullins said. “Maybe one or two were rushed in transition. We’re going to be good with any of the guys shooting 3’s, as long as they’re good shots. And we only took 13 of them, so we’re OK with shot selection. If we take care of the ball better and defensively clean up some things, that will provide more success tomorrow.”
UP NEXT: In the MVC’s new scheduling format for the 2020-21 season, SIU faces Evansville again tomorrow (Monday). Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. from Banterra Center and the game will stream nationally on ESPN+.
NOTES: SIU’s 7-0 start is the program’s best since starting 8-0 in 1947-48 … The best start in program history is 9-0 in 1932-33 … SIU has won five-straight games in the Evansville series … SIU is 17-3 at Banterra Center under head coach Bryan Mullins (5-0 this season) and 22-4 in its last 26 home games overall, dating back to January 2019 … More series trends: SIU is 6-1 in its last 7 games vs. Evansville and 7-2 in the last nine games vs. the Aces … SIU has only trailed for a combined 12 minutes, 48 seconds (of 240 total minutes) in the past six games. 9:22 of that was in the first half at Butler (SIU trailed for 33 minutes, 4 seconds of the season opener at SEMO) … SIU has won the points-off-turnovers battle in all seven games this season … SIU also had a seven-game winning streak last season. Tomorrow, SIU will go for the program’s first 8-game winning streak, at any point in a season, for the first time since 2006-07 (13-straight).