CARBONDALE (SIU ATHLETICS) - The Indiana State men's basketball team shot a blistering 57.4% from the field to ruin SIU's Senior Night, 79-68, on Wednesday night at Banterra Center. Indiana State shot 63% from the field in the first half, including 6-for-8 from the 3-point line, and limited SIU to 38.5% shooting in the second half to hold on. Defense has been SIU's calling card this season -- the Salukis (16-14, 10-7 MVC) came into the game ranked in the top-10 nationally in scoring defense. But Indiana State (17-9, 10-7 MVC) picked it apart tonight. Indiana State shot the highest field goal percentage of any SIU opponent this season and scored the second-most points against SIU, behind only Murray State's 79 points back in mid-November.
"We always say, 'Tough 2's are tough 2's.' That's what we want them to shoot. They made a couple tough 2's, and they made a couple tough 3's. That's not why they beat us," SIU head coach Bryan Mullins said. "They beat us because they consistently played harder than us and executed better than us. We have to do a better job making them feel us. Defensively, we weren't good enough to win tonight."
The Trees hit a plethora of tough shots in the first half but were most deadly behind the 3-point line, where they went 6-of-8. In the second half, Indiana State essentially abandoned the 3-point line, going 0-for-2, but they ended up with 38 points in the paint for the game. Indiana State's two all-conference caliber guards, Tyreke Key and Jordan Barnes, were especially impressive, combining for 41 points, 5 assists, and 6 rebounds; and the pair combined to shoot 16-for-25 (64%) from the field.
Despite the loss, SIU's fan support was outstanding again, with a crowd of 5,297 turning out on Senior Night to show appreciation for seniors Barret Benson, Eric McGill and Ronnie Suggs Jr. The Salukis wrap up the 2019-20 season with a 12-3 home record, which included a 10-game home court winning streak that was the program's longest in more than a decade. After the game, Benson went out of his way to thank the fans.
"I appreciate the fans and the community more than they can ever imagine for giving this senior group, and specifically me, an amazing senior year," Benson said. "I also want to apologize because we didn't go out the way we should have in this building. We put in too many hours to play the way we did tonight. But again, all year the fans have been amazing. We really appreciate that, and the program will continue to need that down the road."
To start the game, SIU jumped out to a seven-point lead in the game's first 10 minutes. But Lance Jones -- who scored or assisted on 6 of SIU's first 7 field goals -- picked up his second foul and went to the bench. Indiana State turned it around and finished the half by hitting 9 of their last 10 shots. The Sycamores extended their lead to double digits early in the second half to force an SIU timeout. The Salukis came out of the timeout and went on an 11-2 run to cut the lead to one, 53-52, with 12 minutes to go. Brendon Gooch was a huge part of that run, with a career-high 3 steals and two assists during one 2 minutes, 20 second stretch.
But the Salukis just couldn't get over the hump. From the 12-minute mark until the final 90 seconds, SIU never trailed by more than five points, and the Salukis cut the lead to one or tied the game five separate times -- but the Sycamores went 5-for-5 on the ensuing possessions to keep SIU at arm's reach.
"This is a big-time gut-check team win for us over a team that's been the hardest team to score against in the league all year, the No. 1 defensive team in the league," Indiana State head coach Greg Lansing said.
Benson led SIU with 17 points and 8 rebounds on his Senior Night. Eric McGill scored 14, and Lance Jones scored 16 on 6-of-8 shooting. For Indiana State, in addition to Barnes and Key, Jake LaRavia had 14 points, 5 rebound, and 4 blocked shots. Christian Williams had 11 points and 6 assists.
UP NEXT: SIU closes the regular season at Missouri State on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.
NOTES: The teams combined to go 21-for-21 from the free throw line (SIU was 12-12; INS was 9-9) ... SIU lost when recording 15+ assists for the first time this year (8-1) ... SIU's four-game home court winning streak in the SIU-INS series was snapped ... SIU fell to 14-5 on Senior Day in the last 19 seasons.