Former Saluki player and assistant coach Paul Lusk returned to the SIU Arena for the first time as an opposing head coach, and his team won a close game against the Salukis.
SIU (8-17, 5-9 Missouri Valley Conference) fell 56-54 against Missouri State (15-11, 8-6 MVC) Wednesday at the SIU Arena. The Salukis had a chance to tie the game at the end of regulation, but senior forward Mamadou Seck’s jumper hit the rim and junior forward Jeff Early couldn’t tip in the offensive rebound as time expired.
“I was trying to go by (MSU forward Kyle Weems), but he played good defense,” Seck said. “I had the shot I wanted; I just missed it.”
Missouri State went toe-to-toe with the Salukis in the first half until a 6-0 run at the end of the half gave them the 31-25 advantage. Missouri State center Caleb Patterson was a game-time decision for Lusk because of an injury, but he came off the bench and scored 11 points in the first half.
Patterson finished the night with a game-high 18 points.
“I thought about not even playing him again tonight,” Lusk said about Patterson, who hasn’t played in two weeks. “He’s not completely healthy yet.”
The Salukis continued to trade blows with Missouri State in the second half, with neither side taking a lead larger than six points. Junior guard T.J. Lindsay hit a three with 6 minutes and three seconds left in the game to tie the score at 48 apiece, but that was the closest SIU would get to a victory.
“We had our chances. We got what we wanted at the end of the game,” Lowery said. “(If) Jeff had a tip, it’s an overtime game. But our guys fought back.”
Missouri State out-rebounded the Salukis by a margin of 33-24, which Lowery said was because freshman forward Dantiel Daniels and Early dealt with foul trouble.
“When we have Dantiel out, and you have Jeff out, those are our tough guys,” Lowery said. “We shoot 52 percent and to get out-rebounded, that’s on the offensive end and (Missouri State’s) rebounds.”
The Salukis only hit three free throws on 10 attempts, a trend that has SIU at the bottom of the MVC in free throw percentage this season.
“Going three of ten from the free throw line is obviously a big problem,” Lowery said. “That’s seven points we left on the board, and (we didn’t) have the chance to really get ahead of them after that.”
Indiana State lost to Bradley Wednesday, which means SIU is still tied for eighth place in the MVC, one game behind two teams (Northern Iowa, Drake) tied for sixth. SIU goes on the road Saturday to face Indiana State at 12:05 p.m in Terre Haute, Ind.