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November 30, 2003 Columns No Comments

Salukis come to Milwaukee

by Nick Dettmann

Milwaukee – Southern Illinois first year head coach Matt Painter feels that the barn-burner, 66-64 buzzer beater, game against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee last season in Carbondale helped get the Saluki’s into the post-season last season.

In the second rendition of UWM and SIU, the Saluki’s might be able to look back at this game and use it again to get back into the post-season following their 81-77 win over the Panthers on Saturday.

“Last year, our win got us into the NCAA tournament,” Painter said. “That got us over the hump.

“Now for us to be able to come in here and get a win is huge for us. I told the guys that we could not turn the ball over and that when we make mistakes, not to compound on them. I think that was the key.”

For much of the contest, UWM struggled with their switches as SIU set-up numerous ball screens to help open up their outside shooters.

“We knew that (Darren) Brooks and (Brad) Korn would be coming off screens,” UWM’s Dylan Page said. “A couple other guys kind of surprised us. But we made adjustments at halftime. Whether we executed or not is a different matter.”

The set back for UWM (2-1) snapped a 17-game winning streak on their floor, combined with the games at the on-campus Klotsche Center and the US Cellular Arena.

Darren Brooks led all scorers with 26 points for SIU (3-0) as he tore up the Panther defense possession after possession en route to a 10-for-18 shooting performance. SIU also used 15 points from Brad Korn, 11 from LaMar Owen and a 50 percent shooting display to get them over the hump over a thin Panthers line-up.

UWM was shorthanded from the get-go, which, early on, played a very pivotal role in the game. Fifth-year senior Kalombo Kadima sat out the game after he pulled a groin in the Panthers 90-62 win over Concordia-St. Paul on Tuesday night. Ricardo Freeman was forced to sit in the first half because he was late to practice earlier in the week. With those two key guards out, head coach Bruce Pearl was forced to go with youth and inexperience

“There were two differences tonight,” Pearl said. “One, they were quicker than us. The strong will beat the weak, the smart will beat the strong and the quicker will always win.

“The second thing was our bench. I think our bench dropped off tonight. In order for us to win, we need everyone to contribute.”

UWM got the game started in the right direction for them as they jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, courtesy of reigning player of the week Joah Tucker. For much of the rest of the half, the lead did progress to get any bigger than six.

But shortly before the 15-minute mark, the Saluki’s opened up the floodgates with a 20-9 run to finish off the half as they went into the locker room up 48-38.

The second half started out much like the first half with UWM opening up on a 14-6 run to get them within two. But that was all she wrote after that as the Saluki’s never relinquished the lead and led by as many as 10 points mid-way through the second stanza.

Trying to mount a comeback, much like how they hung in at the contest in Carbondale last season, the Panthers were unable to inch themselves any closer than four in the last two minutes.

The Panthers had their best chance to pull within one possession with 30 seconds left on the clock. UWM, down 78-73, using their famous tight in-bound defense forced a five second violation on SIU.

UWM in-bounded the ball and Page took a fade-away jumper that rimmed off and Brooks snarled the rebound, forcing UWM to foul, closing the door.

When asked to compare the 2002-’03 Panthers to the 2003-’04 Panthers, he said they were similar in many areas. Except for one.

“I think they lack that ‘go-to-guy’ in crunch time like Clay Tucker,” Painter said. “Obviously Dylan is a load, McCants is a shooter, Chris Hill is a jet and they don’t have those guys that keep you honest, but Tucker was a little bit of everything.”

“I talked to the team a little bit,” Pearl said after the game. “Dylan stepped and said ‘You know we lost our third game to Southeast Missouri State last season, we just lost to a team that might win the MVC, I think we are ahead of where we were last year.’ I’m pleased to hear that and to some extent I agree.

“We’re playing the schedule that we’re not looking at being an at-large NCAA tournament team,” Pearl added. “We’re getting ready to win the league tournament championship again.”


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