By Craig Phelps
St. Louis, MO- The ninth seeded Southern Illinois Salukis were just moments away from upsetting the number one seeded Missouri State Bears in the MVC Tournament on Friday afternoon. After leading for most of the game, the Salukis were held scoreless in the game’s final 2:49 minutes.
“Down the stretch, it’s amazing what our guys do. When it’s time to get stops, they get stops,” said the seemingly stunned Coach Cuonzo Martin.
Martin’s Bears forced 12 Saluki turnovers but thinks looked dark for MVC regular season champions. They held the Salukis to just three shots from the field in the games dying minutes.
The boys from Springfield, Missouri shot just 25 percent in the first half and hit just 18 of 54 shots in the game. The Bears threw up six shots in what ended up being the games deciding moments; they only missed two of their chances.
With 1.8 seconds left in the game and the Bears and Salukis tied at 56 points, Missouri State’s Junior leader, Kyle Weems said he wanted the ball in his hands. His team obliged.
Weems was defended against the Salukis senior star, Carlton Fay, as he drove on the right side of the lane. Weems shot a fade-away sky hook that hit nothing but net as it gave the Bears the lead and the win.
“It seemed like everybody was giving it their all… We just let them get their heads up. They are a good basketball team and you can’t let them do that,” said SIU’s Justin Bocot, who had 11 points in the game.
Adam Leonard proved to be the toughest match-up for the Salukis, scoring 20 points and shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc. Kyle Weems was the only other Bear in double digits with 14 points.
Southern Illinois shot 52.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from three point range, a stat that is kind of skewed because the Dawg’s only made four shots from deep. Mamadou lead SIU with 14 points and Kendall Brown-Surles joined Bocot as SIU’s second leading scorer with 11 points.
Carlton Fay was held to just 3 points on 25 percent shooting. Fay was worked over on the boards grabbing only one rebound in the last game of his college career.
“You don’t want him to go out like that. You don’t want him having so much doubt in his head and that’s what he’s going to remember about the last time he played. I apologized and told him I don’t want you to go out like this, feeling like you didn’t help us win this game,” said Chris Lowery of SIU’s forward. Fay is the only Saluki senior who spent all four years in the program.
The Missouri State Bears will play the winner of Northern Iowa and Creighton tomorrow at 1:35pm on MVC-TV.