CARBONDALE — A good effort did not equal a big victory for SIU’s men’s basketball team Wednesday against Bradley.
The Braves stormed out of the final media timeout at SIU Arena, answering a Desmar Jackson jumper with a convincing 7-0 run that lifted them to a 66-60 win.
Bradley, picked to finish ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference’s preseason poll, won its first league road game since the 2010-11 season and improved to 10-4 overall and 2-0 in the league.
SIU (7-6), picked to finish last in the preseason poll, dropped its third straight and fell to 0-2 in the league for the first time since 2008.
“We just could not capitalize on any of our easy buckets, and we just put ourselves under an enormous amount of pressure to score, because if you can’t make shots, you have no motivation at the defensive end,” said SIU coach Barry Hinson said.
Down five at the break, SIU tied the game at 46 with 10:10 to go but didn’t take the lead until Jeff Early’s transition bucket with 4:02 to play.
Desmar Jackson’s jumper with 3:33 to go gave the Salukis their largest lead of the game at 56-53, but it didn’t last long.
Walt Lemon Jr., who scored a game-high 20 points for Bradley, scored back-to-back baskets and assisted on Jake Eastman’s 3-pointer to put the Braves back up.
Lemon got around the defense along the right side of the lane and converted to get his team within one. The junior guard then turned his interception of Early’s pass near the 3-point line into another quick two points at the other end to put Bradley up for good.
The Braves scored 11 points off SIU’s 13 turnovers and got eight in transition, matching Fresno State for the most the Salukis have allowed this season.
Lemon made 8-of-11 from the field, 3-of-4 at the free-throw line and handed out three assists to go with five steals.
“At the four-minute media (timeout), when we were clearly rattled and we were going off in other directions, he really had a calm and collectiveness about us, and he challenged some guys in the huddle,” said Bradley coach Geno Ford. “And that’s great, but you gotta, then, go out and respond. Jake hit a huge 3, his assist to Tyshon (Pickett) on the roll, and that big finish he had was impressive.”
Davante Drinkard, who played a career-high 28 minutes in the absence of the injured Dantiel Daniels, got SIU within two with 1:50 to go with one of his three field goals. Drinkard scored seven points, more than in his last seven games combined, and added two blocked shots.
Pickett, Bradley’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, was limited to 11 minutes because of foul trouble but made his only field goal count.
The 6-6 transfer from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College went right to the rack to put the Braves up four, 62-58.
Bradley shot 59.1 percent from the floor in the second half (13-of-22) and finished 24-of-48 for the game (50 percent).
SIU shot 42.3 percent and got three players into double figures, but lost for the fourth time in its last five games. Desmar Jackson scored 15 points, Jeff Early had 11 and Anthony Beane Jr. added 10.
The Salukis now hit the road for three of their next four games, beginning with a Saturday contest at Evansville (8-6, 1-1 MVC).
On Twitter: @Todd_Hefferman