CARBONDALE - Southern Illinois University's men's basketball team may not see another man-to-man defense this season.
With Chaisson Allen's game-winning free throw in the final seconds of overtime, Northeastern beat the Salukis, 63-62, thanks in large part to a 2-3 zone in the second half, and a late whistle that was questioned by the Salukis.
With 2.5 seconds left in overtime and the game tied, the Salukis were hit with a technical foul after someone allegedly called a timeout the Dawgs did not have. The whistle came after Mamadou Seck rebounded an Allen miss.
SIU coach Chris Lowery told the officials no one on his team called a timeout, but the officials told the scorer's table they heard someone from the Salukis indicate the timeout after Seck's rebound. Allen then made one-of-two free throws for the final margin.
But the controversial call wasn't the Salukis' only problem. SIU turned it over 23 times, 13 in the final 25 minutes, and was denied its first victory of the season Tuesday morning as part of ESPN's College Hoops Tipoff Marathon.
"The turnovers were humongous, and we out-rebounded them (40-33)," Lowery said. "We get them to shoot 36 percent. We should win the basketball game, especially when they're on the road."
The Salukis (0-2) led by six at the break and stretched the lead to 10 two minutes into the second half, but weren't able to close out the Huskies (2-0) in front of 4,054 fans in a game that tipped off at 9 a.m.
A jumper by John Freeman put SIU ahead 51-49 with 5:01 to play. Joel Smith got the lead back for Northeastern with a wide-open 3-pointer at the 4:25 mark.
The teams traded punches for the next four minutes before both blew chances to win at the end. Allen, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, put the Huskies up 60-59 on a jumper with 37 seconds left. Alwayne Bigby then put Carlton Fay, an 80.3 percent lifetime free-throw shooter, at the stripe for a shot at the lead. Fay rimmed out the first one with 23 seconds to go, but made the second to tie the game at 60.
Allen then drew a foul on SIU's Mykel Cleveland with three seconds to go, but, with the fans as loud as they were all game, missed the free throw to force overtime.
Allen didn't miss his second chance at the victory.
Regardless of the phantom timeout, SIU didn't help itself with the lack of discipline against the Huskies' zone. The Salukis threw passes where no one was standing. They forced passes inside that were intercepted, and against a long and athletic NU squad, didn't move the ball well enough to challenge it.
"Against the zone, we didn't move the ball enough, because once we moved the ball, we were getting anything we wanted," Freeman said. "When we rolling like that, and we're moving the ball and getting anything that we want, then we've gotta stay with it, and don't fall back from it like we did today."
Northeastern earned its first win against SIU in two tries, and considered itself lucky, coach Bill Coen said.
"We were very, very fortunate to get a win today against an outstanding program that has been excellent for so long, and has been one of the standards in college basketball," Coen said. "I didn't think we played our best basketball, but fortunately, we were able to come up with enough plays at the end of the game to get us back into the game, and then in overtime, to get a win."