CARBONDALE - SIU and Evansville's men's basketball teams have dramatically different records against dramatically different schedules, but the two teams share one thing as they open Missouri Valley Conference play tonight.
Both squads have struggled closing out games in the final minutes. One team will find a way to do so beginning tonight at 7 at the Ford Center. Evansville coach Marty Simmons hopes it's his squad, which found a way to rally from nine down at the half to beat Miami (Ohio), 77-75, on Dec. 20.
"That was probably from start to finish one of our better efforts," Simmons said. "I think we've been disappointed in the way we've finished some of our games and we just have not put together any consistency from start to finish, and that's where we felt against Miami of Ohio we were closer. We just seem to be more tougher, even more when we were down nine at half. We felt like we were playing much better than that, than to be down nine. I don't have a great answer for you, other than the fact that our guys were practicing better."
Evansville (5-5) lost two games earlier this year by two points and enter tonight's league opener 2-3 in games decided by five points or less. The Purple Aces beat Butler in overtime, 80-77, to start the season but fell in the extra session at home to TCU, 70-68, and dropped another home game, 72-70, to Tennessee Tech.
SIU (3-8), off to its worst start since coach Rich Herrin's first season in 1985-86, hopes to turn their fortunes around in league play. The Salukis come off three straight losses at the Diamond Head Classic, and despite scoring 75 and 77 points, respectively, in their last two games, enter MVC play last in scoring (62.3 points per game).
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