TERRE HAUTE, IN (SIU ATHLETICS) -- After a 21-day COVID layoff, and without All-Conference forward Marcus Domask, the SIU men's basketball team took Indiana State to the wire before falling 69-66 on Monday night at Hulman Center.
The Salukis (7-4, 1-4 MVC), who only had one practice with more than six scholarship players available over the last three weeks, took Indiana State's best punches and threw some back.
Playing without Domask, the team's leading scorer who is week-to-week with a foot injury, SIU never trailed by more than four points at any point and led for more than 22 minutes of the game. But in the back-and-forth battle that featured nine ties and 13 lead changes, the Sycamores (7-7, 4-5 MVC) got the win from an unlikely hero; Tre Williams, who had only attempted five 3-pointers all season, hit one with 75 seconds to play that gave Indiana State the lead it wouldn't relinquish.
"Give credit to Tre. It was a great shot and he stepped up and made it," SIU head coach Bryan Mullins said. "There are some things you have to live with as a coach. You can't take away everything."
Southern's effort throughout the game made an impression on Sycamore head coach Greg Lansing.
"Sometimes, as a coach, you win a game and feel like you lost. I kinda feel that way," Lansing said. "I'm glad our staff and guys were energized because you need to celebrate and appreciate every win you get in the league, but give Southern Illinois a lot of credit. I thought they controlled the game at both ends of the floor for the majority of the time. We were just fortunate to come back and get the win. But they took it to us. They were the more aggressive, more physical, harder-playing team. They ran their stuff tremendously on offense. We told the guys: We know they're going to play hard -- really hard. I was very, very impressed with Southern Illinois tonight."
Without Domask, who was averaging more than 16 points per game this year, Lance Jones led the way with a game-high 25 points for SIU. Kyler Filewich and Steven Verplancken Jr., who each made his first start for the Salukis, both made the most of the opportunity. Filewich scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting and Verplancken added 11 points, including three first-half 3-pointers.
"Everyone who came in today contributed," Mullins said. "We have guys who haven't practiced in 2-3 weeks. For them to come out and play the way they did, I'm proud of the group and their effort, for sure. I know what type of team we have. It's a team built on character and a team built on a bunch of winners. If they're going to play in a game, they're going to come ready to compete. Some of these guys had one practice -- yesterday was our first practice with more that six guys. I told the guys, 'You only get 30 game days out of 365 days, so take advantage of it. Enjoy it. Compete at a high level.' And that's what these guys did."
UP NEXT: SIU has its shortest turnaround of the season, with tomorrow's game at Indiana State starting at 4 p.m. CT, just 22 hours after the tipoff of tonight's game.
NOTES: SIU won bench points 13-0 (SIU held Indiana State's bench to 0-for-8 from the field) ... All but 2:22 of the second half was played within one possession, either way (+/- 3 points) ... Filewich's 12 points were a career high ...Jakolby Long, who had been out with an injury, played for the first time since December 18 ... The Salukis won points in the paint 36-32 ... Indiana State held a 17-6 advantage in free throw attempts ...Lance Jones' 25 points were a season high, and it was his fourth career 20+ point game … SIU debuted “RH” patches on its uniforms, in memory of Hall-of-Fame coach Rich Herrin, who passed away on Christmas night at the age of 87.