Desmar Jackson lifts Saluki Men’s Basketball past Fresno State, 57-54


With 12 seconds left in a tie ballgame, Desmar Jackson launched an off-balance 3-pointer that caught nothing but nylon as the shot clock expired, giving Southern Illinois a 57-54 victory over Fresno State on Wednesday.

The Salukis (4-1) sent a crowd of 5,409 — the largest since the Creighton game in 2011 — home with smiles on their faces as the team is off to its best start since 2006.

“I’m really proud of the effort our fans made and proud of the effort our players made,” said SIU head coach Barry Hinson. “More importantly, I’m really happy for you.”

Two players carried the Salukis on their backs. Jackson finished with a career-high 25 points and made 3-of-4 from 3-point range, while Jeff Early had his second-career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“Jackson was tough all night and made plays when he had to down the stretch,” said Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry. “I give him a lot of credit. He had an answer all night at the end of the shot clock.”

The Salukis led by as many as 12 points in the second half before the Bulldogs (3-3) rallied to take a 52-50 lead on a driving layup by Tyler Johnson with 2:22 remaining. Neither team led by more than one point thereafter, until Jackson hit his 3-pointer.

“(Desmar) has an incredible offensive pace, which absolutely drives me nuts,” Hinson said. “He’s slow and methodical. No one rushes him. It’s pretty good at a moment like that, that you have that pace.”

The Wyoming transfer, who sat out last season, has had up-and-down performances so far this year and entered the game shooting 37 percent from the field. Hinson said he wasn’t worried about the junior guard’s offense, however.

“I told him before the game started, you have one minute, maybe 30 seconds, if you come out and don’t get in a stance and don’t guard, you’re coming immediately out of the game,” Hinson said. “I think we’re going to let him play the next game.”

Southern’s defense set the tone early by holding the Bulldogs scoreless for the first seven minutes of the contest and without a field goal until Kevin Olekaibe made a 3-pointer with 9:11 to go in the first half. The problem for SIU was that it struggled nearly as much on offense, converting just one field goal during a six-minute span of the first half. Jackson finally took over with a flurry of late baskets, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer just before the half.

The victory was all the more remarkable considering Hinson threw his entire team out of practice on Tuesday after just 10 minutes.

“I felt like we took it for granted,” he explained. “I told our players today at practice, how we can ever take for granted the opportunity to run out there and play basketball blows my mind. I asked them, do you want to do it your way or do you want to do it our way? Thank goodness they wanted to do it our way.”

A week after challenging Saluki fans to turn out in large numbers for tonight’s game, Hinson was effusive in his praise for the fans.

“It was really more of a plea than anything — could you come help us?” he said. “For the 5,400 people today that came and watched us play, I can’t thank you enough. Our players were so excited. They came running in the locker room after shoot-around and said, ‘Coach, there’s people in the stands.'”

“There’s no chance we win that game tonight unless they’re here. It was really special — thank you.”

SIU falls to Florida Atlantic 85-81 despite 34 from Macklin


CORAL GABLES, Fla.Cartaesha Macklin scored a career-high 34 points, but the Southern Illinois women’s basketball team couldn’t hold off Florida Atlantic in an 85-81 loss to the Owls Saturday night at the UM Thanksgiving Tournament.

Playing in front of friends and family in her home state, Macklin netted 10 field goals and went 12-for-14 from the free throw line to amass the fifth highest scoring total in SIU history and the highest output by an SIU player in 10 years.

Sophomore guard Cartaesha Macklin scored 34 points.

SIU head coach Missy Tiber said Macklin’s night was sparked by a move back to the point guard position with freshman Rishonda Napier playing the two guard.

“We made some key changes that allowed two players on our team to be better, and I think it made our whole team better,” Tiber said. “‘Cartaesha had a phenomenal game. And Rishonda went for 12 points and eight rebounds. I think it also made her better.”

Despite suffering their fourth loss of the young season, the Salukis (0-4) showed tremendous signs of improvement from their previous three games. Southern came out on top of a back-and-forth first half and led as much as seven in the second before a late run by FAU (3-2) pushed the Owls over the top.

The two teams had eight ties and nine lead changes in the first half before the Salukis took a 47-44 lead into the break. The Salukis’ 47 first-half points were the most SIU has scored in a half since netting 49 in the second half against DePaul last season. Macklin scored 26 in the first half alone.

Southern ran out to its biggest lead at 51-44 two minutes into the second half before FAU responded with a 13-0 run to slingshot into the lead by six points at the 14:36 mark. The Salukis battled back within one point, but the Owls pushed the lead back to eight points at 68-60 with 10:26 left.

SIU again responded, fighting back to tie the game at 73-73 on a 3-pointer by Napier, and later tied the game again at 76-76 on a 3-point play by freshman center Dyana Pierre. The Salukis had chances in the final minutes, but missed a few free throws and couldn’t get the defensive stops they needed.

“You’ve got to give our kids credit. They didn’t roll over. They continued to fight,” Tiber said. “When it came down to it, our kids played unbelievably hard. We had a couple of turnovers and we missed a couple of free throws that we’d love to have back.”

After struggling from the free throw line through its first three games, SIU shot an efficient 20-for-27 from the stripe (74.1 percent) against FAU. Despite missing leading rebounder Alexus Patterson, who was out with an injury, SIU out-rebounded the Owls 54-39 led by a career-high 15 boards from Pierre.

Sophomore guard Mercedes Griffin also turned in the best performance of her young career, scoring 10 points with seven rebounds.

“Our defense is going to take some time,” Tiber said. “I told the team, we can get better with our effort and we can get better rebounding the ball — simple things that you can measure. I think our kids did that tonight.”

The Salukis will be back in action at noon Thursday at SIU Arena hosting IPFW for Field Trip Day.

Saint Louis hands Saluki Men’s Basketball its first loss, 61-51


ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Saint Louis administered a dose of reality to unbeaten Southern Illinois on Saturday night at Chaifetz Arena, handing the Salukis a 61-51 defeat.

The Billikens (3-2) led the entire game and by as many as 17 points before a late flurry by the Salukis (3-1) in the final two minutes cut the final deficit to 10.

Dantiel Daniels scored 12 points in the second half for SIU.

After winning its first three games against lesser opponents by an average of 24 points, SIU head coach Barry Hinson said his team found SLU more problematic.

“They are very unique — their bigs play like guards, and their guards play like drivers who are more comfortable inside the arc,” Hinson said.

SIU started a lineup with no player taller than 6-foot-5, but the size disadvantage didn’t hurt Southern in the paint, as it won the rebound battle, 36-28. Instead, the Salukis had trouble guarding 6-foot-11 center Rob Loe and 6-foot-8 forward Cody Ellis on the perimeter. Those two combined to make 6-of-9 shots from 3-point range. Loe made all three of his tries from downtown and finished with 12 points.

“We have some major focus problems,” Hinson said of his defense. “You look at what Loe and Ellis did tonight, I promise you, we had big circles around their names that they like to step out and shoot the three, and I think Loe is going to send (Saluki forward) Davante Drinkard a Christmas card.”

Southern’s offense was its downfall in the first half, as it shot just 24 percent from the field. The Salukis trailed, 28-17, at the half, and guard Jeff Early had 11 of his team’s points. For the fourth-straight game, he finished as the team’s top scorer, totaling 15 on the night.

There were bright spots for SIU in the second half. Forward Dantiel Daniels, who has been nursing a pulled groin, got untracked and scored all 12 of his points in the final 20 minutes. Southern shot 50 percent in the second half, but couldn’t make a game of it, because SLU shot 55 percent in the half.

“They were switching defenses so much,” said Saint Louis head coach Jim Crews. “They were playing a triangle-and-two, 2-3 zone, they were playing man-to-man, switching man-to-man. They played four different defenses against us.”

The Salukis have been able to neutralize their size disadvantage this season by using superior speed in the open floor. They entered the game with 50 transition points on the season, but could only pick up six against the disciplined Billikens.

“We’re small but were pesky,” Hinson noted. “We’re going to have to play that way.”

Both teams played short-handed. SIU was without starting forward Antonio Bryer and reserve guard Josh Swan, while SLU was short three players, including its top scorer, due to injury.

“It’s the next guy up — the season is long,” Crews said. “As much as I believe in the process, you still get a little antsy to get the process moving quicker.”

The Salukis never made a serious run in the game, in part because they fell behind quickly, 15-4. Hinson said he took responsibility for the team’s slow start.

“I told them part of this is on me — the first half we were stagnant, and the second half we did some things better,” he said. “The most encouraging thing is we didn’t quit.”

Pick-Six ticket packages available for Saluki Basketball

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Looking for that special gift for your fellow Saluki fan? How about a Pick-Six package of men’s basketball tickets at a special price?

Fans can pick any six Southern Illinois men’s basketball home games for $54 for bleacher seats and $60 for corner chairback seats. That’s a significant savings off the regular single-game price.

The 3-0 Salukis have home dates remaining with Fresno State, New Orleans, BracketBusters, plus all nine Missouri Valley Conference opponents.

Tickets can be purchased on-line, at the SIU Arena Ticket Office and by calling 877-SALUKIS.

Early’s 27 points lead Saluki Men’s Basketball past New Orleans

By Tom Weber

NEW ORLEANS, La. – Perhaps the scheduled burial of Saluki Basketball is premature.

Picked to finish last in the Missouri Valley Conference this season, Southern Illinois opened its regular season with a dominating 72-55 win at New Orleans on Monday night, christening the Barry Hinson era with a road victory.


Jeff Early

Jeff Early scored a career-high 27 points, and the Salukis (1-0) demonstrated superior speed and athleticism in an entertaining, if sometimes ragged, up-tempo game.

With little in the way of front-court size, SIU’s formula for success this year — at least until Dantiel Daniels returns from injury — will be to utilize its quickness as much as possible. Southern swiped the ball on defense 13 times and scored 27 points off of turnovers, including 18 points in transition.

A full-court battle played into the hands of the explosive Early, who slashed and dashed to the basket, surpassing his previous career-best of 18 points. He added a career-high 12 rebounds to boot.

Playing the power forward position, the 6-foot-1 Early was a force on both ends of the court, diving for loose balls, taking four charges and holding UNO leading scorer Lovell Cook to nine points.

“I can’t remember a player dominating a game single-handedly as much as Jeff did tonight,” Hinson said. “Everyone has been wanting to know about that hybrid (forward) spot. How can Jeff Early play in that spot and be effective? Tonight, you saw how he can be effective.”

The Salukis took control from the opening tip, scoring the first 11 points and leading 26-6 after a breakaway dunk by Early at the 11:28 mark.

The Privateers (1-1), a program that was nearly washed away by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is back on its feet and playing a mostly Division I schedule this season. Yet they had no answer for Southern’s quickness. They committed 27 turnovers and were harassed into shooting 35 percent from the field.

SIU led by 16 at halftime and by as many as 24 in the second half. UNO came as close as 13 points on four occasions in the final 10 minutes, but never seriously threatened a comeback.

In addition to Early’s career night, Wyoming transfer Desmar Jackson scored 17 points in his first game in nearly two years. Forward Antonio Bryer, making his first career start, made all four of his field goal attempts and finished with a career-best eight points.

To be sure, SIU has areas for improvement. Its 28 turnovers were the most since committing 29 at Tulsa on Jan. 2, 1999. Southern was also 1-of-8 from the 3-point line and committed 25 personal fouls.

None of those stats could overcome the good feeling generated by a victory that snapped a seven-game losing streak and eight-game road losing streak dating back to last season.

“The best moment was walking into the locker room and seeing the faces of the kids,” Hinson said. “This program has taken a lot of bump, and we’re going to take some bumps this year, but to go on the road and win by the margin we did tonight, and to basically dominate every category statistically, I’m really proud of our guys.”

“I think I’ll resign right now as the only undefeated coach in school history,” Hinson joked.

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