The nightcap of day two of Arch Madness looked like it would be over by halftime. The No. 6 seed Southern Illinois Salukis rolled to a 36-18 halftime lead against the No. 3 University of Northern Iowa Panthers. Saluki senior guard Desmar Jackson couldn’t miss, going 3-3 from beyond the arc, scoring 20 points and nabbing eight rebounds by halftime. The team ended the half on a 15-0 run.
The Panthers looked dead on arrival, shooting 20 percent from the floor and a disastrous one of 10 from the three point line. Only junior forward Seth Tuggle scored more than four points (nine) and recorded more than three rebounds (10) in the first half.
But Southern Illinois Head Coach Barry Hinson wasn’t going to get a big head about his team’s successful start.
“I had no visions of grandeur at halftime” Hinson said. “I just knew it would come down to the wire.”
Hinson’s prediction would prove to be true, as UNI would come all the way back in the second half to tie the game.
The Panthers used a 6-0 run and then a 15-2 run to close the gap and tie the game at 52 with under three minutes to play. However, SIU never allowed UNI to take the lead, and a 5-0 run put the Salukis on top for good as they won the game 63-58.
Throughout the second half, Jackson, who had been lights out, fell completely into the shadows. He added only three points and three rebounds while collecting four fouls in the second half. It was only due to the efforts of players like freshman forward Bola Olaniyan (seven points, seven rebounds) that the team was able to hold on and earn the win.
Several playmakers on the Panthers also found their stride after the break including junior forward Nate Buss, who added eight points and seven rebounds in the second half.
UNI Head Coach Ben Jacobson was disappointed that his team fell so early in the tournament.
“The way that we had played, we certainly felt like we had an opportunity to not only win tonight but get to Indiana State, play well in that game and give ourselves a chance to play on Sunday.”
Up next for the Salukis is second-seeded Indiana State University. They play Saturday at 4 p.m. It’s Southern Illinois’ first trip to the MVC Semi-finals since 2007.