Southern Illinois' season came to an end Thursday night in Tempe, Ariz., with a 14-point loss at top-seeded Arizona State in a second-round game of the Mastercard NIT Basketball Championship. Despite a double-double from Randal Falker, SIU fell to 18-15 suffering the Valley's first postseason loss in five tries this year.
Friday's games in the league feature a first-round NCAA game as Drake plays Western Kentucky at 11:30 am CT (CBS), while Creighton visits Florida in a second-round NIT game in Gainesville at 8:30 pm CT (ESPNU). Bradley is still alive in the CBI (College Basketball Invitational), as the Braves next play Monday in Peoria (7:05 pm CT) against Ohio, while Illinois State hosts a second-round NIT game Monday against Dayton at 6 pm CT (ESPNU).
Arizona State 65, Southern Illinois 51
Arizona State eliminates the short-handed Salukis from NIT as Randal Falker ended his career with a 19-point, 13-rebound performance. After 33 games and arguably the toughest schedule in school history, the Salukis finally ran out of gas Thursday night. When the final horn sounded at Wells Fargo Arena, the tank read "empty" for Southern Illinois, and Arizona State advanced to the Elite Eight of the National Invitation Tournament with a 65-51 victory.
The Salukis (18-15) essentially used a six-man rotation against the Sun Devils (21-12), due to injuries to all-conference point guard Bryan Mullins and reserve forward Tony Boyle. The latter sprained his ankle in practice on Wednesday, while Mullins missed his second-straight game with a stress fracture in his leg.
"We needed subs," Saluki head coach Chris Lowery said. "We were gassed, plain and simple. We didn't have everything we needed to come in here and win a game."
SIU even resorted to -- gasp -- a zone defense for much of the night. In four seasons at Southern Illinois, Lowery had never used a zone. Tonight, he had no choice.
"We needed to do it because of rotations, foul trouble," he said. "But we're not a zone team, and obviously, it showed."
The strategy initially worked, as the Sun Devils missed their first six 3-point shots, allowing Southern to grab a 12-7 lead midway through the first half.
Arizona State eventually found its range, though, making 6-of-11 from outside the arc during the remainder of the half to take a 28-23 lead at intermission.
"They did a good job of running their Princeton stuff and drawing us down," Lowery said. "They were very patient, and you have to give them credit."
The Sun Devils start three freshmen, and guard James Harden led the way with 16 points and seven assists.
"When you have a young team like that, they don't always want to be patient," Lowery said. "They did a very good job of taking what we gave them."
Without Mullins to guide the attack, Southern's offense centered around senior forwards Randal Falker and Matt Shaw. The duo combined to score 31 of the team's 51 points, even though ASU's zone defense collapsed around them. The Salukis stayed within striking distance most of the second half, but could never generate enough offense to make a serious run, making just 1-of-11 3-point shots in the game's final 20 minutes. It was a far cry from Tuesday night's home victory over Oklahoma State, in which SIU shot better than 50 percent from the field.
"If it's at home, there's a different type of mindset," Lowery said. "Your crowd can help you. When you are on the road, and you're short-handed, it's a lot different."
The game marks the end of the Saluki careers of seniors Falker, Shaw, Tyrone Green and Dion Coopwood.
"They helped establish this terrific program," Lowery said. "We have nothing to be ashamed of. If the NIT is a down year for our program, people must think very highly of us."
"Not many people can say they've had the experiences we've had, with the NCAA Tournament, the Sweet 16 and all of our conference championships," added Shaw.
Lowery was already looking ahead to next year.
"We have to regroup," he said. "We have some good recruits coming, and the guys returning have to really step up and improve their game."
|Copyright ©2013 Missouri Valley Conference. All Rights Reserved.||www.ArchMadness.com|