SIU Blows Lead in Saint Louis

    
December 16th, 2007

ST. LOUIS - In a stunning turnaround, Southern Illinois went scoreless in the final four minutes of the game, allowing Saint Louis to turn an eight-point deficit into a five-point victory, 56-51, Saturday at the Scottrade Center.

The Salukis (4-4) seemed to have the game under control when Matt Shaw hit a 3-pointer with 4:17 left in the contest to put Southern ahead, 51-43. Little did SIU know it would not score again, missing its last five shots and turning the ball over four times.

"We stopped attacking them and became passive," lamented Saluki head coach Chris Lowery. "The things that we're known for, execution and finishing things off, we didn't do today."

Meanwhile, the Billikins (7-5) suddenly found the range on offense. Kevin Lisch, who finished with 20 points, hit a 3-pointer and made 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to secure the victory for SLU. The critical bucket, though, was a game-tying 3-pointer by Luke Meyer with 1:26 to go that knotted the game at 51-51.

"They weren't wide open shots," Lowery said of SLU's late rally. "They made tough shots."

After Saint Louis tied the game, Randal Falker had position in the paint on SIU's next possession, but he was whistled for traveling. Lisch was then fouled by Bryan Mullins and made both free throws with 43 seconds left to give Saint Louis the lead.

Southern's next trip up the floor yielded an open 3-point shot for Shaw that rimmed out, and the Salukis were forced to foul Lisch again. Lisch split the pair, giving SIU one more chance to tie the game, but Joshua Bone stepped out of bounds on the wing with 10 seconds remaining.

"Those type of things we normally don't do," Lowery said. "We normally take care of the ball."

Southern could have seized control of the game in the first half, after taking a 23-16 lead with little more than four minutes before halftime. Once again, the Salukis hit a cold spell, and SLU ran off eight unanswered points to take a 24-23 lead to the locker at the break.

"We normally finish halves off," Lowery noted. "It's not about what we've normally done, though. It's about right now with this group. We have to get these guys to play the right way."

Saluki forwards Matt Shaw and Randal Falker combined to make 13-of-19 shots from the field. Southern's four guards, however, struggled offensively, shooting a combined 4-for-26.

"We don't have individual talents at the guard spot like we've had in the past," Lowery said. "They've got to stay within the system for us to be successful."

Lowery said his team will learn from the loss what it needs to do to close out an opponent on the road.

"It's a teaching tool," he said. "It's still a marathon. We have a long season. You have to learn from your mistakes and not do them over."

Freshman guard Brandon Wood did not play for SIU. He will be sidelined for two weeks with a stress fracture in his leg.