CARBONDALE - If there weren't seven games left in Southern Illinois University's men's basketball season, you might call Wednesday's loss to Drake rock bottom.
However, the Salukis stare at least eight more games in the face after the Bulldogs hit a season-high 16 3-pointers en route to a 65-44 win at SIU Arena.
SIU's 44 points set a new season low, and Saluki coach Chris Lowery used a four-letter word to describe his players that hadn't been heard in years as his team's losing skid hit four games: Quit.
"You can't have guys quit on the floor, and for no reason," Lowery said. "Why would you quit in a game of this magnitude, understanding, if you win it, what it sets you up for? And we had some guys lay down, quit. It's our job to figure out how to get them back, mentally."
Instead of waiting until the last few minutes of the first half to hit the wall, SIU (10-13, 4-8 Missouri Valley Conference) began to unravel 13 minutes into the game.
Ryan Wedel hit the first of three 3-pointers on the night for a 16-9 lead. After Mamadou Seck hit a runner in the lane, a triple by Aaron Hawley pushed the lead to nine with 5:48 to go in the half. The Salukis closed to within seven at the break and got within three after a Seck jumper at the 17:53 mark, but appeared to play without much concern for the perimeter against one of the league's best 3-point shooting teams.
Drake (9-14, 4-8 MVC), on its own three-game slide entering the game, never trailed in the second half and simply got out of SIU's way to go up the standings. Rayvonte Rice and Reece Uhlenhopp connected on back-to-back clean looks from behind the arc for a 35-26 lead. Despite two free throws from Carlton Fay and a 2-2-1 full-court press from the Salukis, Drake rolled ahead for the first double-digit lead of the game off a layup from Ben Simons and a triple from the sophomore forward with 12:44 to go.
Down 46-33, the Salukis wasted a golden opportunity to cut the lead to 11 on a 3-on-1 break. Mykel Cleveland tried to finish on the left side, but left it short. Wedel grabbed the rebound, and knocked down three of his nine points for a 49-33 advantage.
The Bulldogs hit more 3-pointers than anybody in the entire conference had in a single game, only had four steals, and were outshot at the free-throw line 16-6.
Rice had 23 points to lead all scorers and made it look easy in front of 3,205 fans, many of whom left with nine minutes to play.
"They weren't really breaking us down," Lowery said. "They were throwing the ball from one side to the other and getting a wide-open 3, and that should never happen."
Seck had 17 points and nine rebounds and Fay added 13 points in 33 minutes for SIU.
Drake coach Mark Phelps was happy to see his team's effort on the perimeter pay off. Drake's 16 3s broke the Bulldogs' previous season high of 15 set in a 102-51 win over Chicago State in Des Moines on Dec. 23.
"It certainly came at a good time," he said. "The percentage was high. They just caught fire there, and fed off their teammates making ‘em, and they played with a lot of confidence."
The kind of confidence the Salukis appear to be in search of, all of a sudden, even at home. For the first time all season, SIU's players weren't made available to the media following the game.
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