CARBONDALE (WSIL) -- On Thursday, Saluki fans were still talking about the men's basketball team's win over SEMO on Wednesday night.
SIU didn't have their head coach, a lineup full of new faces, no exhibition games to get acclimated with each other and the Salukis jumped right in, figured it out on the fly and rallied to win in overtime 87-79. Here's what we learned about the Salukis.
"They were poised, they knew what to do," SIU Assistant Men's Basketball Coach Brendan Mullins said. "They executed every action almost perfectly and they just knew they were going to win. And on the other end they got very comfortable what was being thrown at them, switching and talking and communicating and just their will to win was amazing."
"We were able to make that late comeback just because of our grit and how bad we want to win," SIU sophomore guard Ben Harvey said. "We came together every time we could. Every dead ball, after each time out, talking to each other, building each other up with confidence and we all believe in each other. We all believe in each others capabilities and what each other can do and bring to the court and just believed in it and fought through it and got the win."
SEMO outrebounded SIU by 15, and outscored the Salukis 17-2 in second chance points. The Redhawks led by 9 points with about five minutes to go but it was just before that, that Brendan Mullins realized his team was about to get back in the game and take control.
"That seven minute media down eleven, I actually wasn't sure how I was going to handle that media to be honest and when I sat down, those guys were ready, those guys had had enough of getting scored on and I saw it in every one of their eyes and so I felt comfortable with those guys on the court in those last twelve minutes," Mullins said.
"The coaches emphasized it in the timeouts going into overtime that we have to be in gaps because they are a good team and get paint touches and we were all in our gaps and helping each other out and just bought into the coaches game plan," Harvey added.
"Man like every stop they just wanted another one, they wanted another one, they wanted another one. We were scoring while we were getting stops but they weren't even talking about the offense. They just kept talking, hey man we want to get another stop and that was fun to coach," Mullins said.
Ben Harvey, used a sit out year to get better. He's been chomping at the bit to get back on the court. Harvey finished with 22 points but was locked in right out of the gate hitting two three pointers.
"Our whole team can shoot the ball well and I just came out with confidence and believed in my shot and was just able to knock them down," Harvey said.
"Yeah not surprised," added Mullins. "As far as confidence level, he's got to be top three on our team, very confident guy and deservingly so. He's in the gym all the time, works his butt off. He got better defensively. We knew he could score the ball, he could play inside out, he's another big guard like Marcus but to see him guard and compete the way he competed at the end of the game, that's what I am most proud of him for."
Dalton Banks is another newcomer that had to make Saluki fans smile. 14 points off the bench, and his effort kept on the floor in crucial moments down the stretch.
"What a game for a true freshman. He came in, he wasn't rattled at all. He didn't play perfect but he just competed his butt off on both sides of the floor. Was very disciplined with the ball, took great shots, let the game come to him, was almost always in the right spot defensively and did just an unbelievable job running the sets late in the game. Our execution in the first half compared to the second half, night and day and he did an unbelievable job of getting guys in the right spots."
The increased minutes for Banks raised the question, why didn't we see more from Lance Jones.
"Lance was available and Lance is going to be a monster. We talked to Lance this week and without getting into it, he missed a good amount of basketball and he's just getting back into shape and we were going to try to limit his minutes either way to keep him healthy and keep him right and then just the way Dalton played there wasn't no way I wasn't going to keep those five guys on the floor."